CUP request for library rejected in 7-0 vote by Sunset Hills board

Historical Society supported Moore’s proposal for library

By Gloria Lloyd

The Sunset Hills Board of Aldermen last week unanimously rejected a conditional-use permit for a private library that a city founding father hoped to operate on historic property.

Over the past six months, Alwal “Al” Moore met opposition during several public hearings from his neighbors in the three Tapawingo subdivisions, near the Tapawingo National Golf Club, over Moore’s plans for a library at 13270 Maple Drive.

Moore has lived in Sunset Hills since before the city was incorporated and purchased the 10-acre site in 2010 hoping to preserve the historic buildings and land.

“I really thought it would be a split vote,” Moore said. “I’ve got options I’m going to have to exercise … Whatever I do next time will have to be something that the neighbors can’t control. I’m tired of fighting with them.”

At the March 12 meeting, aldermen voted 7-0 against a conditional-use permit, or CUP, for the library.

Because 21 of the 31 property owners within 185 feet of the site signed a petition against the permit, approval would have required a two-thirds’ majority vote of all aldermen.

Ward 1 Alderman Dee Baebler, who lives in Tapawingo and has spoken in favor of the library, was in the hospital and unable to attend the meeting, Mayor Bill Nolan said.

“It was my hope we could reach some reasonable accommodation (between the neighbors and Moore),” Ward 1 Alderman Richard Gau said before his “nay” vote. “Unfortunately, we couldn’t do so. For that reason, I’m voting no.”

After the meeting, Moore said church and school representatives have expressed interest in his property, and he is interested in selling the land to those types of entities because he feels they would have more leeway than he does to use the property while also preserving it.

“Tapawingo will wish they’d let me have the library,” he said. “They’ll have five to six times the traffic.”

Moore bought the property in 2010 for $2 million from the Paraclete Fathers, to which Falstaff Brewing Co. owner Joseph “Papa Joe” Griesedieck had donated the buildings and land for use as a religious retreat.

In an attempt to preserve the buildings and green space, Moore offered the property to the city as a park for $1 million, but the city did not have the funds.

Last August, Moore applied for a CUP for a “cultural center,” and after meeting with neighbors, he amended his request to ask to operate a library. Sunset Hills has no public library.

The library, according to the proposal, would feature art exhibits and music lessons and include three of the site’s buildings, including a historic tower that would be used as exhibit space for the Sunset Hills Historical Society, a chapel that would be used as a reading area and the McNamara Building, which would house donated books. The Sunset Hills Historical Society supported the proposal.

During a public hearing Feb. 26, nine residents voiced their opposition to the Board of Aldermen about Moore’s proposal, while one resident spoke in favor of it.

Traffic to the library was estimated at 35 cars a day, the same as when the Paraclete Fathers operated their retreat. In public hearings, Tapawingo neighbors noted concerns about access to the property through the subdivisions’ private streets, as well as concerns about increased traffic and safety of the neighborhood from “transients” who could come to the library.

“Those five couples (who oppose the library) have turned neighbor against neighbor (in Tapawingo),” Moore said. “They said there would be drug dealers coming to the library, and they’d see how to rob their houses. They have 150 people a day coming through the neighborhood to go to the golf course. They could be coming in for the same reason.”