Residents' effort to halt proposed rezoning of former elementary school site falls short
September 21, 2005 - An attempt by nearby residents to stop the proposed rezoning of the former St. John Elementary site to allow the construction of a 104-unit condominium complex was halted last week.
The county Planning Commission determined that a notice of protest filed last month by residents who live near the site was invalid because it did not have the required amount of signatures.
Now the rezoning process will continue for the site at the corner of Will Avenue and Lemay Ferry Road when the County Council's Public Improvements Commit-tee meets at 4 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 4.
Residents filed the protest statement Sept. 9. In the protest, residents stated the condominium complex will increase traffic on Will Avenue and put residents and drivers at risk. They had also said the four-story buildings planned for the project do not belong next to their neighborhood of single-family homes.
"Residents of this single-family residential area are already inundated by motorists using Will (Avenue) as a thoroughfare," according to the protest statement. "A significant increase in the number of residents, especially in a high-density area, is likely to significantly change the dynamics in the surrounding neighborhoods."
Residents asked the County Council, the Planning Commission and the Public Im-provements Committee not to approve the plan proposed by Greater Missouri Build-ers and any future plans submitted by any developer seeking to develop high-density residential units at that location.
The Planning Commission in July approved Greater Missouri Builders' request for a zoning change from the R-4 7,500-Square-Foot Residence District to the R-7 1,750-Square-Foot Residence Dis-trict. The proposed complex would have six buildings with 104 two-bed, two-bath condo units total and two parking spaces for each condo.
The Planning Commission's rezoning re-commendation was introduced at the Aug. 2 County Council meeting and Chairman John Campisi, R-south county, referred it to the Public Improvements Committee for further consideration.
"The reason why I sent it there (to the PIC) is so that everyone would have a chance to look at the changes that were made to the development," Campisi told the Call in August. "I don't think everyone gets to know that information ... So this is the perfect opportunity for residents to see the changes that were made with the Plan-ning Commission."
Before the committee could take action, however, the County Council received the notice of protest with the signatures of more than 100 property owners who live near the area, and referred the notice of protest to the Planning Commission to review its validity.
The Planning Commission wrote a letter to the County Council, stating that the no-tice of protest was filed within the deadline, but the petition did not have enough signatures. The county's zoning ordinance requires that property owners filing a notice of protest must own 25 percent of the property within 1,000 feet of the site of the proposed rezoning.
"Rather, owners of only approximately 20 percent of the property, by area, have signed the petition," Planning Commission Chairman Doug Morgan stated in the letter.
Deborah Herbst, one of the residents who signed the notice of protest, told the Call that even with 100 signatures, they did not own a high enough percentage of land be-cause the Mehlville School District and the Metropolitan St. Louis Sewer District also own a large amount of land within the 1,000-foot boundary. She also said that the 1,000-foot boundary does not include more than half of the residents who must turn onto Will Avenue to leave the neighborhood.
"Basically, a big point is the people who live on and around Will Avenue who have to come onto Will are the most affected, and that's actually less than half of the neighborhood (that is included in that 1,000-foot boundary)," Herbst told the Call.
In the letter, Morgan stated that the County Council may refer the question of validity of the notice of protest to the Pub-lic Improvements Committee. The Plan-ning Commission's report was to be filed at the County Council meeting Tuesday, Sept. 20 — after the Call went to press.
After the commission finished its review of the signatures, the Public Improvements Committee was scheduled to review Greater Missouri Builders rezoning request Oct. 4, but the committee's meeting notice did not include any mention of the notice of protest.
Greater Midwest Builders contracted to buy the 5.85-acre property from the Mehlville School District for $1.1 million, but the sale is contingent on several factors, including the zoning change that would allow the company to build multifamily condominiums.
The Mehlville School District originally had planned to build the new early childhood center, now called the John Cary Early Childhood Center, at the St. John's campus site, but instead the center is being built on the Beasley Elementary School campus.
The location was changed after administrators cited budgetary, site-development, access, safety and aesthetic concerns about the St. John's site. The early childhood center is the final new building that will be constructed under the Proposition P districtwide building improvement program.
Voters in November 2000 approved Proposition P, a nearly $68.4 million bond issue funded by a 49-cent tax-rate increase. However, the Board of Education voted in November to approve a revised Propo-sition P budget of $88,927,440.