South St. Louis County News

St. Louis Call Newspapers

South St. Louis County News

St. Louis Call Newspapers

South St. Louis County News

St. Louis Call Newspapers

County Council ready to proceed on Villages at Gravois Creek plan

After last week’s Committee-of-the-Whole hearing on the proposed Villages at Gravois Creek, the St. Louis County Council now believes it has all the information it needs to amend a bill that would approve zoning for the 444-home subdivision.

The only question left now is how radically the council will change the proposal.

The County Council was scheduled Tuesday — after the Call went to press — to view a sub-bill to the development submitted by 6th District Councilman John Campisi, R-south county, who represents the district where the development has been proposed.

After perfecting that sub-bill and placing it on the final calendar, the County Council is then scheduled to take a look at the proposal at 5:30 p.m. May 2 in a Committee-of-the-Whole executive session.

“We won’t take any action on it until the May 2 meeting, which will be the executive session for the Committee-of-the-Whole, which will make its recommendation to the council at that time,” Campisi said. “After that happens — and only after that happens — will we then vote as a council as a whole.”

Among the proposed changes to the Villages at Gravois Creek that Campisi is attaching in a sub-bill to Bill 113 are:

• Moving the Number 3 subdivision entrance from Gravois Road inside the development to Charrette Drive.

• Moving the Number 2 subdivision entrance from Musick Road to Gravois Road.

• Widening Gravois Road to five lanes from Laclede Station Road to Musick Road.

• Making sure a sidewalk is built along Gravois Road from Laclede Station Road to Musick Road and also around the proposed development bordering Musick Road.

The zoning change at the property from non-urban to residential must be approved for the project, which would contain three sections of single-family homes and condominiums, to go forward.

The county Planning Commission previously approved the change to residential zoning March 6 and is now recommending the move to the County Council.

One of the questions floating around the development was answered April 18, when Cor Jesu Academy, an all-girls Catholic school along Gravois Road next to the proposed development site, agreed to buy 3.35 acres of the proposed site from the Gravois Co. — a collection of five developers who own the property. Council members and developers alike estimate that the sale will erase 20 to 25 homes from the proposed development, which would bring the total number of homes down to the 420-home range. Cor Jesu members have said that they would like to use the land for future expansion.

“We feel that the agreement that we’ve entered into with the builders benefits our neighbors, our students and our community at large,” said Cor Jesu Principal Sister Sheila O’Neill. “First and foremost, I want you to know that we were never opposed to this development. However, we did express our concerns with the impact of this development on the safety and security of our students and the greater community … One of the issues we spoke about was for Cor Jesu to share a common entrance into the development as well as Cor Jesu. We would be willing to give up our entrance and share an entrance with the developers, which would take away one of the entrances onto Cor Jesu. We feel that would be a win-win for both of us, helping the traffic issue on Gravois.”

But nearby residents still say that the proposed homes would only hamper the traffic situation on Gravois Road. Residents in both the 5th and 6th County Council districts have pointed out that the developer used a traffic study for only one day in October 2005 that did not show extra traffic that empties out each summer from Grant’s Farm and the Affton Athletic Association facilities.

Besides traffic concerns, residents are also worried about the potential flooding that could occur on the athletic association’s facilities and Grant’s Trail if an influx of new homes is built in the area.

John King, the attorney representing the Gravois Co., told numerous residents at the April 18 Committee-of-the-Whole hearing that the developers would not cause more flooding because they would have to get approval from the county and the Metropolitan St. Louis Sewer District before any homes are built. He also pointed out that traffic would be improved in the area because Gravois Road would be enhanced to allow for more residents.

“All of these things we have done and we have done with professionals,” King said to the crowd. “And it bothers me to no end when people do not agree with you and then they criticize and ridicule and question the integrity of these professionals just because they don’t agree with them. That’s wrong. These are four of the finest developers in St. Louis County. Some of them have probably built the homes that you live in. And I dare say that I know that I’ve got zoning for this developer of homes that you do live in. And those are nice homes. Nowhere in this county has a development that I know of — and I’ve seen many of them — has a development in any way hurt the value of anybody’s home.

“Traffic is bad on Clayton Road, it’s bad on Laclede Station Road, it’s bad on Highway 40, it’s bad everywhere. If this county is going to continue to grow and continue to be what it is today, we have to have development like this. These are homes, this is the style of living that people want today and that they have to have today. We look to our empty-nesters, professional people and families who will live in those single-family homes.”

While King and the developers contend that the proposed housing and zoning in the site is consistent with the rest of the area, County Council Chairman Kurt Oden-wald, R-Shrewsbury, has said that he would prefer a number of homes in the 260 to 280 range.

Odenwald, who represents 5th District homeowners who live on the side of Gravois Road across from the proposed development, said he wants council members to keep in mind that the proposal affects a wide array of people in the area.

“This is a very important issue,” Odenwald said. “It affects more than just one district. It affects this whole portion of St. Louis County. It affects all the people of St. Louis County who drive up and down Gravois Road to visit the cultural institutions that are there. This is such a unique area. This isn’t just any area of St. Louis County. We have Grant’s Farm. We have sports facilities, high schools, wonderful residential areas, and I think a lot of issues have been presented (at the Committee-of-the-Whole meeting) that need a lot of discussion, a lot of thought and concern.”

But while he realizes that concerns at Grant’s Farm and the Affton Athletic Association were not addressed in the developers’ traffic study, Campisi said he believes the council has all the information it now needs to make an informed decision on the development.

“How much is enough?” Campisi said. “You can keep these things going for years and years and years by ordering things and it’s always going to come back to the same thing — yeah, it’s a busy street. It really is. The best thing you can do is improve the street and try to pull traffic off. There’s certain ways that would alleviate a lot of that.

“My first and foremost was to make sure that the kids coming out of (Cor Jesu) were safe. And yeah, there is a lot of traffic going up and down Gravois. But I’m not going to be able to stop it. I can’t stop the amount of traffic that goes up and down Gravois. But I can say this. I can say that I did my best to make sure that this development conformed to the surrounding 6th District. As far as the Grantwood Village people go, I’m not going to make everybody happy and I know that. But the best thing I can do is try my best to make the development the best development for the 6th District. And that’s just where I’m going to leave it.”

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