Campisi offers third substitute bill for Villages at Gravois Creek

Councilman tells residents that Dooley can veto Villages at Gravois Creek bill

By BURKE WASSON

With talks of litigation swirling from nearby residents opposed to the Villages at Gravois Creek, the man who represents the district where the proposed homes would be built continues to make adjustments to the controversial bill.

Sixth District Councilman John Campisi, R-south county, has proposed a third substitute bill to Bill 113 to approve the Villages at Gravois Creek.

During the council’s May 9 meeting, any final action for approval of the proposed subdivision across from Grant’s Farm was delayed for another week.

The County Council was scheduled to meet Tuesday — after the Call went to press — to once again consider a final vote approving the zoning for the 94-acre subdivision.

Before the County Council’s scheduled Tuesday night meeting, Campisi took time last week to meet with residents who live near the proposed homes on the south side of Gravois Road and district constituents during a May 11 town-hall meeting at the Tesson Ferry Branch County Library.

Campisi said that he had scheduled a Saturday meeting with representatives of the Affton Athletic Association and the Gravois Co., the developer of the project.

The parties have been discussing ways to use McNary Road, on which the association has easement rights, for access into the subdivision.

The councilman said he also was scheduled to meet Monday morning with County Executive Charlie Dooley and Gravois Co. representatives to specifically discuss the project’s density.

Besides these meetings, Campisi said he has requested artist’s renderings of the proposed 444 homes at the Vil-lages at Gravois Creek. He hoped that they would be available soon, specifically by Tuesday night’s County Council meeting. Campisi said it is his understanding that the proposed homes would be similar in style to that of the Grey Cliff subdivision off Christopher Road. He said he was unaware of the style of the proposed condominiums, but that those would be included in the artist’s renderings.

But while the style of these homes will soon be revealed to the public, Campisi still is butting heads with one key concern of nearby residents — density.

“That development does fit in my district,” Campisi said. “And the zoning fits in my district. But the fact that they’re going to use a PEU (planned environment unit) for that development, they can use that PEU. I normally let developers use gradual upgrades in the zoning. R-3 to an R-4 or R-4 to R-5. But I look around and I see R-3 and R-4 near that property.”

But many residents remain concerned about the legality of the PEU, which lets the developer use county flood-plain property as common ground, that increases the density in the area.

Grantwood Village resident Mike Jones, whose home sits in the county’s 5th District on the north side of Gravois Road, asked Campisi at the town-hall meeting if he would ever be willing to make a compromise on the density.

“This is at best a shared issue between two districts,” Jones said. “The only difference is Gravois between the two districts. You’re talking about the density on your side on your district. But you have to at least be sensitive to the fact that there’s a whole other half of the road here. I know you don’t represent them, but I would certainly think as a councilman, you would be willing to make some sort of accommodation.”

Campisi responded that 5th District Councilman Kurt Odenwald proposed a density way too small for the area — R-1 — in his proposed substitute bill to Bill 113 at the council’s April 25 meeting. That bill did not get the required five votes to override Campisi’s bill to approve the subdivision.

Despite his belief that R-1 is too small for the proposed subdivision, Campisi said he does have some negative feelings about the PEU that the Planning Commission approved to attach to the R-4 zoning. At the same time, he said he knows that he — and nearby residents — would be better served by having the council approve Bill 113 instead of having the case go to court. If that happens, Campisi said, he believes the county would lose because, even though he may not necessarily like it, the attached PEU is legal. He pointed out two other developments in his district he once opposed and then lost in court.

“My point is about the other property, like the QuikTrip on Telegraph (Road), which I stopped and I thought I had it nailed down, (developers) took it court and they won on that one also. The courts will overrule what I say and, not only that, but they will give back the developer what they asked for the first time. Therefore, the concessions that were made during the time that I had this sub bill, I will lose. I will lose in a heartbeat. (Gravois Co. attorney) John King came up to me each and every one of those three times and told me I was going to lose. And this development, before it hit my desk, I was told that if it goes to court, I will lose. The concessions that I can get right now I need to hang onto. If it goes to court, I will lose. And I don’t want to lose what I have. I don’t want to lose your third lane down Musick Road. I don’t want to lose your dedicated right-hand turn lane there at Gravois and Musick. I don’t want to lose that fifth lane (on Gravois Road). I don’t want to lose all the sidewalk that goes the length of the development down Musick Road down Gravois Road. I don’t want to lose the dedicated right into Cor Jesu. I don’t want to lose any of that.”

But numerous residents told Campisi that even if the developers did win in court and could then add more homes to the subdivision, they would still respect him for opposing it and taking it to a legal challenge.

“You would look like an absolute hero, OK, if you sat there and said: ‘Well, guys, it’s R-1. That’s really what’s around the area,'” Musick Road resident John Bell said to Campisi. “If you went to court and lose, and they get 550 (homes), you would look better in the voters’ eyes because you would be representing what we feel. And even if you do lose in court, we will still have tremendous respect for you if you did what your constituents want done and that’s from you representing us.”

Further talk from residents has included possibly seeking signatures for a recall vote of Campisi. Residents who attended the May 9 County Council meeting and Bell himself both said they would seriously consider forming a recall vote if Campisi votes in favor of the Villages at Gravois Creek in its current form.

While he respects their enthusiasm, Campisi said he is not worried about the possibility of a recall vote and does not believe it would ever get to the ballot.

In the meantime, some residents are wishing Campisi and the rest of the County Council would work to the best of their abilities to make the subdivision a livable project.

Jones said to Campisi at the town-hall meeting that he is disturbed that the bill to approve the homes could ever get to a final vote by the council without full knowledge of entrances into the subdivision itself.

“Our expectations are by the time we get to sub bill three of Bill 113, these issues should have probably been addressed,” Jones said to Campisi. “But the interesting thing is that we’ve already had a vote to perfect one of the sub bills. Now I understand from hearing from you that in Mr. Dooley’s office, they might be working their magic. But how can a bill get to a perfection point without ever having defined how almost half of its residents are going to access and egress the area?”

Campisi said that because the Planning Commission already approved the project’s density, he has little choice but to work with the bill as it was given to him and try to make it better.

“Honestly, the Planning Commission has to come up with a decision that this was OK to send to the council,” Campisi said. “I can’t speak for any of the Planning Commission members. I won’t do it. I’m not going to get into that. I just don’t know what they were thinking or if they didn’t think it was complete, they were going to send it on. And I don’t know. I’m not going to speak for the Planning Commission … They allowed this to come to my desk, and now it’s time for me to try to work it out. I can’t put on the hat for every departmental head that’s in St. Louis County. But what I can do is take it from the point that I get it to do the best I can with it. So you’re saying: ‘How could they have done that?’ I don’t know.”

If the County Council approves final passage of zoning for the subdivision, Campisi did remind residents that they have one more avenue if they are still unhappy — Dooley, who appoints the members of the Planning Commission.

“I am not your last hope,” Campisi said. “Charlie can veto the bill. I am just saying that I am not your last hope. How many times have I ever told you that I’m your last hope? I’ve never mentioned Charlie before and I just told you that Charlie is your last hope. It just goes to tell you how political this thing is right now. The Planning Commission handed it to me, Charlie Dooley handed it back to me. I’m doing what I can for this development.”