Berra pulls plug on apartment complex

Some say they are skeptical plan permanently withdrawn

Neighbors of a proposed apartment complex on Bauer Road raise their hands in opposition to it at the original June 20 Planning Commission hearing.

Neighbors of a proposed apartment complex on Bauer Road raise their hands in opposition to it at the original June 20 Planning Commission hearing.

By Gloria Lloyd

Developer J.H. Berra “permanently” withdrew its proposal for 232 apartments in Concord last week, bringing to an end a months-long fight the project’s neighbors had with Clayton.

Representatives of Oakville-based Berra contacted County Executive Steve Stenger last week to let him know they were dropping the project, then withdrew it the next day, Oct. 20.

“In light of concerns that residents of the area expressed about this apartment complex, I am very pleased that the developers have permanently withdrawn the plan,” Stenger said in a news release announcing the withdrawal.

Berra subsidiary JHB Properties proposed “21Bauer,” a gated, “high-end,” 10-building apartment complex on a 17-acre site at the intersection of Tesson Ferry and Bauer roads. The project was one County Council vote away from approval in August, but was sent back through the entire zoning process again after the neighbors’ attorney found irregularities in the zoning process.

Widespread opposition to the plan from thousands of neighbors caught the attention of County Council members from north and west county and other government agencies like the Mehlville Fire Protection District.

As Concord residents spoke week after week in Clayton against the apartments, limited to a minute at a time in their comments, 21Bauer became a top campaign issue in the 6th District council race between former Rep. Pat Yaeger, D-Lemay, and Oakville attorney Ernie Trakas, a Republican. They are vying for the seat currently held by Councilman Kevin O’Leary, D-Oakville, who residents said did not meet with them about the project and didn’t respond to their phone calls or emails.

Especially after what they see as poor treatment from planning officials in Clayton, some of the project’s neighbors are skeptical about Stenger’s announcement that the plans are “permanently” withdrawn.

Throughout the process, Sunset Meadows trustee Bill Hogan has represented the 600 households in 16 subdivisions along Bauer and Keller roads. The first time the project went to the council, Hogan said he used to fight the Russians as a Department of Defense official and would now have to fight St. Louis County.

“We’re very grateful that we got it pulled, but we’re also still suspicious because it’s election time, you know, and it could be political, we just don’t know,” Hogan said. “We don’t know if we won the battle or won the war. So we’re going to be grateful for what we’ve got and prepare for it coming back — because nothing’s permanent except death and taxes.”

As for Stenger’s unusual announcement that he was pleased with the project being dropped, Hogan noted that the project nearly passed on a 4-3 vote, with the “yes” votes coming from the members of the council who are traditionally aligned with Stenger, including O’Leary, Chairman Mike O’Mara, D-Florissant, 5th District Councilman Pat Dolan, D-Richmond Heights, and 2nd District Councilman Sam Page, D-Creve Coeur.

Opposed were the three current members of the council who have often opposed Stenger: 3rd District Councilwoman Colleen Wasinger, R-Town and Country, 1st District Councilwoman Hazel Erby, D-University City, and 7th District Councilman Mark Harder, R-Ballwin.

“We had four votes for it, and they were all under Stenger’s control,” Hogan said. “That’s why we are where we are.”

Trakas spoke against the project at the County Council and the Oct. 10 Planning Commission public hearing. He said he would be an “assertive voice” for the people of the 6th District against the establishment in Clayton.

At the public hearing, Trakas told the panel, “The opposition to this is legion … The idea of somehow ignoring the public and the residents directly impacted by this project who stand in opposition to it is frankly absurd.”

When the candidate spoke to the County Council this summer against the apartments, Stenger, a Democrat, asked if Trakas lived near the project.

Yaeger, who is endorsed by Stenger, says she will be an independent voice on the council. At first, Yaeger declined to take a position on the apartment complex out of respect to O’Leary, she told the Call.

However, in the Call’s candidate questionnaire, Yaeger said she would “likely oppose” the project because it “seems incompatible” with the single-family houses around it.