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

Crestwood aldermen reject rezoning petition

Lot is currently zoned R-3 which has a 75-foot minimum
Crestwood aldermen reject rezoning petition

An ordinance requesting to rezone a lot from an R-3 single family residential district to an R-4 single family residential district was discussed by the public Crestwood Board of Aldermen at the Aug. 22 meeting before it ultimately failed 5-2.

The lot, located at 11831 Eddie and Park Road, is approximately three times the size of a typical lot in the R-3 zoning district, though sitting at a 116-foot width, it is not wide enough by R-3 standards to be split into two lots. The R-3 district requires a minimum of a 75-foot width, and these lots would only be 58 feet wide. The minimum lot size for R-4 is 55 feet.

The Planning and Zoning Commission voted 5-0 to recommend denial of the requested zoning map amendment at its Aug. 2 meeting, “determining the proposed zoning change would not be consistent with the comprehensive plan and citing safety concerns for vehicle ingress and egress from the driveways onto Eddie and Park Road.”

Before the Board of Aldermen voted, members of the public were encouraged to give their thoughts. Six Crestwood residents who live or lived by the property came forward, all opposed to the rezoning.

The first concern was that any housing development on the lot would not “fit the feel” of the community.

“We welcome somebody finally doing something with that property – it’s been an eyesore for years. But again, we don’t think two houses on that lot is the character of the neighborhood – the wider neighborhood of Crestwood, especially– when you look at the zoning,” Crestwood resident Tim Dunkle said.

The next and largest concern was safety. The lot is close to the curve of Eddie and Park by St. Justin Martyr Catholic Church, making it dangerous to pull out onto the road.

“I’ve been there, in Crestwood, approaching 30 years,” Rob Knobbe said. “I live right around the corner from this curve that’s been referred to, and trying to pull out from Crestmoor onto Eddie and Park is challenging at best. It’s a 20 mile per hour sign right next to a 30 mile per hour sign, and people don’t obey either one of them. Safety is a key consideration.”

Another resident added that “people do fly around those corners, and you’ve got a blind spot from both sides.”

The final concern was the fact that this could set an unwanted precedent in the neighborhood.

“My concern extends a little closer to me, as I know there’s a church in my backyard, basically. It may or may not someday exist, or may sell out for whatever reasons, and that would set an alarming precedent very close to me for houses that are possibly much bigger than they need to be in our neighborhood,” Crestwood resident Steve Nieder said.

Before the public hearing portion ended, Sal Vitale, the contractor working on the development, addressed the crowd.

“I’ll be honest with everyone here, I was not even planning on being at this meeting tonight,” Vitale said. “I was gonna withdraw this from the petition, because after hearing the residents – and they’re upset, I thought we would just sell the lot to a developer and let them build a house on it.”

Vitale was swayed, though, after seeing support for the rezoning from Crestwood residents online. He also wanted to come before the board and public to emphasize that profit is not his main goal, despite some residents believing that.

“The whole purpose of why we even decided to do this was we wanted to try to provide affordable housing,” Vitale said. “I lived in Crestwood, my kids go to St. Justin’s right across the street. I’m not some developer from outside the community, I want to help the community, but I also want to help people that are looking for housing.”

After Vitale spoke, Mayor Scott Shipley asked if he would stay up at the podium in case any residents had questions. All were quiet, prompting the board to move on, until Nieder said he “had a rebuttal.”

“Well, we’re not doing a debate here,” Shipley said. “If anybody has public comments they’d like to make, that’s fine, but I’m not looking to introduce a debate society. You’re welcome to speak if you’d like.”

Nieder did speak, stating that he did not think affordable housing was an issue in Crestwood.

The aldermen were then asked if they had any questions for Vitale. Only Ward 3 Alderman Grant Mabie had anything to say, and asked Vitale about switching the straight driveway into a “T” or “hammerhead”-style driveway.

“We didn’t show that on the plans, but I do agree (on) a hammerhead. We’re (also) talking about maybe doing a side entry garage. We have to address it with the architect, but if we can’t do the side entry garage, we’ll probably do like a hammerhead or something for safety,” Vitale said.

The pair also spoke about stormwater issues, though Vitale reassured the alderman that they would not be allowed to build anything without the approval of the Metropolitan St. Louis Sewer District.

“We have to follow their guidelines,” Vitale said.

With that, the public hearing closed. This allowed the aldermen to discuss the ordinance itself, the majority of them agreeing with the comments made by the community.

“The Planning and Zoning Commission came to a unanimous conclusion to deny it 5-0. I really don’t see anything different tonight that would sway me to change my mind and to vote against planning and zoning, what their vision was,” Ward 4 Alderman Tony Kennedy said. “I think there are safety concerns and character concerns.”

“And then there’s just precedent,” Ward 4 Alderman John Sebben said. “I do believe Mr. Vitale’s intent, but we’re not voting on that, we’re voting on changes from an R-3 to two R-4s. Something could happen where we have a new developer who has a different intent.”

Mabie, however, was in favor of the rezone.

“I think many of the concerns raised are valid, but I view future processes as the vehicle to address those concerns,” Mabie said. “The home that was on that lot was dilapidated. It was an eyesore. … The fact we’re moving on past that and there’s a proposal to build $1.2 million worth of homes, and welcome two families to Crestwood, quadruples the tax base here. People are going to shop in our stores, attend our churches and add to the vibrancy of the community.”

“I certainly think it’s consistent with the comprehensive plan – we’re supposed to encourage infill housing and population growth,” he added. “This isn’t Town and Country or Huntleigh – the idea that we would restrict a singular home to a 1-acre lot, I just don’t think it’s appropriate or fitting with the comprehensive plan.”

In the end, those against outnumbered those in favor, and the ordinance was denied 5-2. Mabie and Ward 1 Alderman Jim Zavist voted in favor, while Sebben, Kennedy, Ward 2 Alderman Justin Charboneau, Ward 3 Alderman Greg Hall and Ward 2 Alderman Mike Balles voted against. Ward 1 Alderman Jesse Morrison was absent.

“Mr. Vitale, I do appreciate your sincerity and your earnestness to improve this lot,” Shipley said following the vote. “I also thank all the residents for coming in and expressing your views. This is how local government works, so thank you all.”