‘Condition assessment’ of Sunset Manor subdivision to take about 12 weeks

By MIKE ANTHONY

The Mehlville Board of Education voted unanimously last week to allocate roughly $32,000 that will allow the Northstar Management Co. to work with the Cooperating School Districts in obtaining bids for synthetic turf projects at the district’s two high schools.

The Board of Education voted unanimously in March to direct the administration to proceed with a proposal to engage Northstar to serve as owner/manager for the synthetic turf projects at the two high schools.

During a May 11 school board meeting, Ken Kadel of Northstar said the maximum cost to the district to obtain bids for the synthetic turf projects would be $43,890 — including $12,000 previously approved by the board for Northstar’s services.

Carl Arizpe, a member of the school district’s Long Range documents with the city of Sunset Hills and preparation for any meetings.”

Hunzeker, who defeated incumbent Jim Hobbs in the April 4 election, had an-nounced at the April 25 Board of Aldermen meeting that the condition assessment would be conducted “to determine the legal, physical and financial condition of the former redevelopment area. Once we have a baseline of information to begin with, we can start the planning and take the steps necessary to reassemble our neighborhood and put our city back on the right track.”

Sunset Hills aldermen in May 2005 approved Novus’ request for $42 million in tax-increment-financing assistance and $20 million in transportation development district reimbursements to help fund the lifestyle shopping center at Interstate 44, Watson Road and South Lindbergh Boulevard. The project called for razing 254 homes and several businesses in the Sunset Manor subdivision. The Board of Aldermen also authorized the use of eminent domain to acquire those properties that Novus did not have under contract.

Closings on the more than 200 homes were scheduled to begin Aug. 22. But Novus learned Aug. 18 its lender had withdrawn its funding for the development, and the closings were delayed until a new lender could be secured, but Novus was unable to find one.

In late January, St. Louis County Circuit Judge Gloria Clark Reno ruled that the city’s Board of Aldermen did not comply with state law last May when it adopted the two ordinances related to the Sunset Manor redevelopment project. Aldermen voted unanimously Feb. 14 to adopt an ordinance repealing six ordinances related to the redevelopment project.

In a related matter at the May 9 meeting, the Board of Aldermen voted 5-3 to adopt an ordinance repealing an ordinance adopted in August 2004 designating Novus as the preferred developer for the Sunset Manor redevelopment project and establishing a preliminary funding agreement between the city and the developer.

After the first reading of the ordinance, a motion to suspend the rules to allow for a second reading deadlocked with a 4-4 vote. Hunzeker cast the deciding vote allowing for a second reading.

In favor of suspending the rules were Ward 1 Alderman Frank Hardy, Ward 2 Alderman Thomas Hrastich, Ward 3 Alderman Lynn D. Flowers and Ward 4 Alderman Frank Gregory — the same four who ousted four incumbent aldermen in the April 4 election.

Opposed were Ward 1 Alderman Michael Sawicki, Ward 2 Alderman John Littlefield, Ward 3 Alderman Jan Hoffmann and Ward 4 Alderman Donald Parker.

Parker questioned why the ordinance was before the board.

“Why is this — this has already been discussed in, I believe in the February meeting …,” he asked, noting that several other ordinances relating to the Sunset Manor redevelopment were repealed Feb. 14, but not this one. He added that he was curious why the issue was resurfacing now.

Hunzeker said, “I think it was of a mind to clear the deck of all the issues related to the development at Sunset Manor and pretty much clean up the matter and proceed forward.”

Parker asked when the city’s agreement with Novus expired and City Attorney Robert C. Jones replied that, in his opinion, the agreement ended April 22 — nine months after an amended redevelopment agreement with Novus was signed.

The city attorney also noted he had received an April 7 letter from Blumenfeld, Kaplan & Sandweiss on behalf of Novus, which stated the company was returning the city’s $97,530 check.

“Novus Development Co. does not be-lieve the city has fulfilled its duties and obligations, and if the redevelopment project does not proceed, without waiving or releasing any claims it has against the city and its officials, believes it is entitled to a refund of all sums paid to or on behalf of the city. Again, without waiving any claims, Novus expects the city to appeal the recent court ruling.

“Our client would like nothing more than to proceed with the redevelopment project, and we look forward to having the opportunity to work with you to enable Novus to do so,” the letter stated.

Jones noted that he had not yet responded to the April 7 letter, saying he was awaiting direction from the board on how to proceed.

Aldermen discussed at length whether to repeal the ordinance, with Parker saying he did not want place the city in any financial jeopardy.

After further discussion, Jones said, “… As I understand Novus’ position, they think they have some kind of preferred developer right that lasts forever. So if that’s the position, then maybe it would be better to repeal the ordinance …”

Hardy later asked, “So, Bob, repealing this ordinance then puts the city in no further jeopardy than it is at the moment?”

The city attorney replied, “That’s my opinion …”

The Board of Aldermen then voted 5-3 to repeal the ordinance with Sawicki, Littlefield and Parker opposed.

During a discussion on approving the contract with H3 Studio for the condition assessment, Gregory said, “… Just to clarify and make it clear for everyone that the scope of this work again is basically to collect information and facts on the Sunset Manor area. It’s not a feasibility study or any kind of development-type projection.”

Hoal said, “Correct.”

For the analysis, the following maps will be produced: site boundaries, existing zoning, land use, building use, building condition, building age, building size, lot size, ownership, vacancy/occupied — owner/renter, assessed value, date of purchase/offers, violations and maintenance calls and key issues and opportunities.

In a related matter, Hrastich, Special Projects Committee chairman, announced that a subcommittee of that committee has been appointed to oversee the resolution of issues related to the Sunset Manor Redevelopment area. Hardy will serve as chairman of the subcommittee, which also will include Sawicki and Hunzeker.