Crestwood aldermen OK lot consolidation request by Lindbergh

Additional approvals needed by district, city attorney says

By Mike Anthony

A lot-consolidation request by Lindbergh Schools for property it purchased adjacent to Long Elementary School was approved last week by the Crestwood Board of Aldermen.

Aldermen voted 4-2 to approve the lot-consolidation request after a public hearing. Opposed were Ward 1 Alderman Darryl Wallach and Ward 3 Alderman Jerry Miguel. Ward 4 Aldermen John Foote and Dan Tennessen were absent from the March 26 meeting.

Late last year, Lindbergh paid $850,000 to buy 4.684 acres adjacent to Long Elementary, 9021 Sappington Road.

Several residents of the Doercrest Manor subdivision, adjacent to the school, told aldermen that while they support the expansion and improvement of the school’s campus, they oppose the district’s traffic plan. That plan proposes a gated exit at Doercrest Drive that five buses will use twice a day to access Eddie & Park Road.

District officials, however, say the plan will improve safety by separating car and bus traffic, which is “the gold standard” for elementary campuses. Lindbergh officials met twice with nearby residents and based on residents’ comments, modified the plan.

As proposed, the Long Elementary improvements will include expansion of the existing parking lot, creation of a new entrance to the parking facility opposite Banyan Tree Court, removal of the existing exit to Sappington Road and creation of the gated-drive connection between the parking lot and Doercrest Drive.

In addition, existing structures will be razed to create two multipurpose athletic fields and a nature trail.

Shortly after the meeting started, aldermen met in closed session for roughly 30 minutes to discuss a legal issue. Before the public hearing, City Attorney Rob Golterman said, “… The issue tonight is a lot consolidation, or boundary-adjustment plat request, which is provided for in the city’s code.

“And there are certain requirements that have to be met in order for the city to approve a lot consolidation, or boundary-adjustment plat, before it can be recorded in St. Louis County. And that’s the issue that is before the board tonight for consideration …”

On March 6, the city’s Planning and Zoning Commission conducted a public hearing on Lindbergh’s request for a preliminary plat approval for improvements at Long, including the traffic plan.

The commission voted unanimously to recommend the plan “as submitted with modifications to the safety concerning the egress at Doercrest and the intersection of Eddie & Park and Doercrest.”

Despite Golterman’s earlier comment, aldermen and speakers raised the issue of the proposed traffic plan after a presentation by attorney John King and Brandon Harp of Civil Engineering and Design Consultants, both of whom represented Lindbergh Schools.

At one point, Wallach expressed concerns about safety, asking, “… If there’s five buses that are lined up waiting to exit onto Eddie & Park, my concerns are the stacking mechanism of buses that don’t allow enough space to allow emergency vehicles to make a left, if needed, onto (Parkshire Drive), and what method is the school district going to do to ensure that that doesn’t happen?”

Harp said, “I don’t think you’ll ever have five buses on non-peak hours stacked up to try to make a right or left turn out onto Eddie & Park.”

Miguel asked King whether anyone from the school district was present.

King said, “… I think at the last meeting, it was pretty contentious, and they were concerned and upset, and I said that — it was my instruction that they not come, that I thought it better for them to not have to come and go through what they did the last time.”

Mayor Jeff Schlink said, “And it’s spring break.”

Miguel said, “Well, I guess I express some surprise because a very reasonable question was asked by Alderman Wallach about the number of … buses that (currently) turn left and right (onto Sappington Road), and neither of you gentlemen were able to answer that question.”

King said, “… I think that’s really not what we’re here for. We’re here for the consolidation of the lots, and after that, we have to come in with other plans as to what we’re doing … with regard to the parking, et cetera — not a lot of things, but a few things that the school district has to do.

“The school district, as you know, doesn’t require the zoning. They have the power of eminent domain and so we’re here for the consolidation, really, and that’s … why they’re not here. The consolidation meets all the requirements of your ordinances. And hopefully we’ll get it approved this evening.”

Doercrest Drive resident Frank Ruzicka, who has been leading the opposition to the school district’s proposed traffic plan, told aldermen, “… I stand against the proposed traffic plan that transforms Doercrest Drive, a quiet residential street, into a through street for bus traffic — the very same bus traffic which the school district has argued causes congestion (and) is deemed dangerous on its own campus. Their argument is that the separation of car and bus traffic is the gold standard in traffic safety, and I agree wholeheartedly with their position.

“But they are going to introduce that bus traffic into our subdivision with cars, with buses, with the Lindbergh High School track team who runs routinely through our subdivision up to the park, and somehow that’s OK … And we do have the safety in mind of these children. My biggest concern is a bus getting T-boned on Eddie & Park (Road) by a driver who didn’t see the bus pull out — not because the driver of the bus was inattentive …”

Martha Duchild, wife of Ward 3 Alderman Paul Duchild, asked Golterman whether the issue before aldermen was the lot consolidation or about bus safety, left or right turns and other issues that had been raised.

Golterman said, “As I stated in my preliminary comments, tonight the board is considering whether to approve the lot consolidation plan … It’s my understanding that the Department of Public Works has reviewed the lot consolidation plan and believes that it conforms to the code.”

Duchild said, “OK. So then my next question is: Does this board have any legal justification for denying this school district request for a lot consolidation, in your opinion?”

Golterman said, “I’m not going to answer that in this forum. I’ve advised the board of its legal positions and I will keep that between the board and I at this point.”

Miguel later said it was his understanding that if the board approved the lot consolidation, Lindbergh “has all the approvals that it needs to proceed with its plan …”

“… Legally, there’s probably very little that this board can do. But the board could send a message to the Lindbergh School District that they need to take another look and that’s what I suggest that this board do …,” he said.

Golterman said, “… There are several additional approvals that the school district would have to obtain under the Crestwood code, including a grading plan, stormwater-pollution prevention plan, a parking and landscape plan and a streetscape standards plan …”