Econo Lodge neighbors speak out against new 24-hour car wash at site

Emily Klein
Staff Reporter
emilyklein@callnewspapers.com

Neighbors of the now-closed Econo Lodge in Sunset Hills are not happy with its proposed replacement, a 24-hour gas station, car wash and convenience store that the Planning and Zoning Commission recommended for approval last week.

Brandon Harp from Civil Engineering Design Consultants presented the planning panel June 27 with a site plan and 3D renderings outlining plans for Tidal Wave, an all-in-one luxury car wash, convenience store, gas station and drive-thru restaurant that would replace the decrepit hotel at 3720 South Lindbergh Blvd. The panel voted to recommend the proposed site to the Board of Aldermen 6–2, with Brian VanCardo and panel Chairman Terry Beiter opposed.

The planning panel set conditions including improvements to traffic flow, revisions to the lighting plan and enhancing landscaping on East Watson Road.

The lot is on the corner of South Lindbergh and East Watson and is close to residential areas as well as commercial.

The site plan suggested two entrances on East Watson, and one right-only entrance and exit on Lindbergh. The building would face East Watson, a mostly residential street.

The commission set conditions for approval set out by city staff in its report. Although the new development is currently facing East Watson Road, Public Works Director Bryson Baker suggested that it should face South Lindbergh and have a matching address. City staff also worried about the new site creating more traffic around that intersection. The intersection already has a “D” rating from the Missouri Department of Transportation, meaning that traffic is approaching an unstable flow and cars usually have to wait for a few light cycles to pass through the intersection. Baker also suggested more landscaping to create a buffer between the commercial and residential areas.

The staff report states, “This intersection has been described as a prominent corner in the city. This may not be the highest and best use of the property, and this redevelopment opportunity should be carefully considered.”

Although the panel and citizens agreed the project was aesthetically pleasing, five neighbors spoke about their concerns surrounding the development.

“I think all of us support some type of redevelopment, I think we’re happy to see the hotel go,” said resident Kathryn Heese. “I think there are alternatives to using the property with the AutoTire neighbor and the vacant lot that’s part of the AutoTire and if that could be turned into a big square property — a big Lindbergh-facing property — that would be useful to the residents and the city.”

Other residents said that the neighborhood doesn’t need another gas station or car wash — luxury or otherwise.

“We are very thankful that the hotel is shut down, I think it reduced a lot of crime in our neighborhood. But that being said, this is probably the worst use of this property,” said resident Vern Remiger.

Remiger said that a gas station is not the best use of prime real estate in Sunset Hills and the city doesn’t need another 24-hour convenience store. Remiger also said that according to data from MoDOT, 83 percent of traffic on South Lindbergh Boulevard and East Watson Road exits onto residential streets.