Commission recommends denial of ‘Estates at Briarcliff’

Planning panel deadlocked 3-3 last week on proposed subdivision

The county Planning Commission voted to recommend denial of Berra Land Co.’s application for a 35-home subdivision on Schuessler Road, after deadlocking 3-3 last week on whether to allow the subdivision to move forward.

The planning panel voted 6-2 to recommend denial the application Monday night, with member Keith Taylor and Chairman Wayne Hilzinger voting in favor of the development. Berra proposes the 35-home “Estates at Briarcliff” on the 21.23-acre site. The development’s potential neighbors submitted a petition with 186 signatures against the new houses.

Commission member Bill Sneed made the motion for denial and said he objects to the small size of the lots, especially because Berra refused to amend its initial application to make any of the lot sizes larger and more in keeping with the rural nature of the Schuessler Road neighborhood.

“The developer doesn’t seem to want to consider anything but what they want,” he said.

The commission’s recommendation of denial now goes to the County Council.

At its Oct. 7 meeting, the commission left the proposal in a 3-3 stalemate, despite the Department of Planning’s recommendation of denial.

Commission member Steve Lawler, Taylor and Hilzinger voted against denial to recommend Berra’s zoning change request to an R-1A 22,000-square-foot Residence District from an R-1 1-acre Residence District for a 15.23-acre site on the south side of Schuessler Road, roughly 1,600 feet west of Tesson Ferry Road.

Berra also requested a Planned Environment Unit in the R-1 1-acre Residence District and R-1A 22,000-square-foot Residence District on 21.23 acres — which include the 15.23 acres — on the south side of Schuessler Road, roughly 1,600 feet west of Tesson Ferry Road.

The development would consist of lots ranging from 11,250 square feet to 20,000 square feet, according to the information report provided to the commission, and the price of home would range from $600,000 to $900,000. The development would include, “eight acres of common ground and five acres of new or retained trees,” according to the report.

Hilzinger told the commission if this development is not approved, he is “not sure what else you’re going to do with this piece or ground.”

Sneed said there are some one-acre lots between this and Tesson Ferry Road.

“It’s not exactly the beginning of Schuessler Road and they could make them half acre lots and give something,” Sneed said. “But 11,000-square-foot lots or quarter … lots and that’s what some of these lots will be. So they don’t seem to be willing to take a look at that and so I would say for all the good rationale that’s put into the department’s report it should be denied, and we gave them an opportunity to do that.”

Department of Planning Director Glenn Powers said Sneed’s point is valid and the development would be at the front of Schuessler Road and “closest to the commercial corridor.” He also said Schuessler is similar to Bauer Road.

“I think Bauer road, the next road south, topographically, you come off the road, you go over a little bit of a rise and immediately you hit this country atmosphere right away,” Powers said. “I’m saying they’re similar in that way, where you’re clearly out of the quarter pretty quickly and into almost a different rural setting …”

Sneed said Schuessler Road is “one of the few areas in south county that allows for that type of setting.”

“And it’s been that way for years and years and years …,” he said. “It would seem to me there’s valid reasons not to start building on quarter acre lots, and that’s essentially what the department has proposed.”

However, Taylor said there are “only a few opportunities for good developers to come into places” in the county and develop “some quality, top of the line homes.”

“And what’s been proposed here is one of those companies,” Taylor said, “and the opportunity only comes by once in a while …”

Residents who attended the commission’s public hearing on the issue expressed concerns about “blasting of bedrock, increased traffic congestion on Schuessler Road, increased stormwater runoff, impact to creek and wildlife, and a change in the overall character of the community due to smaller lots with larger homes,” according to the report.

Twenty-five people who attended the public hearing were in favor of the development, while 35 opposed or had concerns about the development.

Jen Samson, of the Department of Planning, said the current R-1 zoning is appropriate because of “the character of Schuessler Road.”

The department’s report also states that “while the R-1 zoning district could be viewed as consistent with abutting parcels to the south, those properties are distinguished by virtue of their primary access to Bauer Road, not Schuessler Road.”

“Beyond the first tier of development oriented to Tesson Ferry Road, such as St. Anthony’s Hospital and the South County YMCA, Schuessler Road is a narrow road with no shoulders,” the report states. “It can be characterized as serving a very low density, rural-like area and it terminates just east of the Meramec River, with no through connections.”

On Oct. 7, the commission also considered — and voted unanimously to recommend approval — of a conditional-use permit for Green Park Soccer’s proposal for an indoor soccer park on 6.4 acres at Green Park Road and Avenue H.

Though staff believes the location is appropriate for an indoor soccer facility and that it “would not be detrimental to Grant’s Trail, the budding residential neighborhoods or the industrial uses to the north and east,” there was concern about access to the property. Pat Detch, of the Department of Planning, said it was determined that Grant’s Trail “would need to be relocated in order for the entrance to the constructed in a manner that it would not conflict with the trail and provide safe access to the property.”

“The relocation of the trail however will require the petitioner to acquire off site easements or right of way and also provide crossing plaza as bikers and pedestrians cross Green Park Road …,” Detch said. “These improvements will be shown on the site development plan …”

Before permits would be issued to Green Park Soccer, a site plan would need to be submitted and various departments would have to approve it.