Fred Weber rezoning dropped by council

By Alyson E. Raletz

Regardless of any decision made by the St. Louis County Department of Health on a Fred Weber Inc. trash-transfer station, the company’s south quarry proposal could come to a screeching halt, according to County Counselor Pat Redington.

The County Council unanimously agreed to drop a rezoning request for Fred Weber’s south quarry in Oakville from its agenda last week. By dropping the request from the agenda, proposed legislation that later would be considered by councilmen on the matter never would be drafted — essentially killing the request.

However, an attorney for Fred Weber contends that the rezoning request is still very much alive, at least for the next 90 days.

Dropping zoning matters from the council’s agenda is not an uncommon practice, Redington told the Call, however this instance could prove to yield further consequences if no further action is taken by councilmen on the matter.

To operate a trash-transfer station in Fred Weber’s south quarry, a tract of the property must be rezoned for industrial use, of which approval only can be granted by the County Council. The company also needs concurrent approval from the St. Louis County Health Department and the Missouri Department of Natural Resources to obtain a license to operate the facility.

While she may have to investigate the matter further, Redington believes the council’s recent treatment of the request could hinder overall implementation of Fred Weber’s proposal if no further action is taken within 90 days.

“Regardless of what the health department does, Fred Weber can’t go forward with the facility if they don’t have the proper zoning in place,” Redington told the Call.

She later added, “If it is not compliant with zoning, I think it would be inappropriate for them (the health department) to issue a license.”

Fred Weber submitted a request last year to the Planning Commission to rezone a 24.9-acre tract to the Flood-Plain Planned Industrial District from the Flood-Plain Non-Urban District.

The tract is about 300 feet southeast of Baumgartner Road, east of the Burlington Railroad and bounded by the Meramec River to the southwest.

The 6,400 square-foot structure that would serve as the trash-transfer station would be constructed 40 feet tall and made of metal, according to Fred Weber Inc., with a 500-ton daily capacity.

The St. Louis County Planning Commission voted unanimously in May to recommend denial of Fred Weber’s rezoning request, contending that the station would have:

• Violated the county’s Meramec Greenway Concept Plan by operating too close to the Meramec River.

• Operated too close to Mattese Creek.

• Set an undesired precedent for additional industrial zoning and uses after the quarry operations cease.

Campisi last week had the option of requesting that the county counselor draft legislation regarding Fred Weber’s rezoning request so that the council later could vote on a proposed ordinance.

Instead, he moved to receive and file the Planning Commission’s report and recommendation of denial and then remove the item from any future agendas.

Upon being received and filed, any councilman has 90 days to request that the appropriate legislation be drafted. If the council takes no action within 90 days, the rezoning request automatically is denied.

“I just felt enough is enough and we should move forward, drop it from the agenda and let whatever happen happen,” Campisi told the Call.

Noting that he was not speaking on behalf of the health department, the councilman said he did not know if the department would still process Fred Weber’s application.

“That’s something that the health department is going to have to decide,” he said. “Why take the time to consider an application for it, if it can’t be rezoned. I don’t see any reason to go forward with the application.”

The health department currently is consulting with the county’s legal staff regarding the matter since it is not clear whether the health department should continue to proceed with Fred Weber’s application, according to Janet Williams, the health department’s director of environmental protection.

Regarding the current status of the Fred Weber application, Williams told the Call, “We are still completing our review of their documents. We have received indications, answers to some of our questions. It is still under investigation ….”

Asked if she knew when the investigation would be complete, Williams said, “I have no idea.”

She noted her response did not sound like a good answer, but added the department was trying to be as “expeditious” as possible taking care to follow all county guidelines and procedures.

Despite Campisi’s action, Gary Feder of Husch & Eppenberger, an attorney representing Fred Weber, told the Call that Fred Weber’s hopes of obtaining the necessary approval for the Oakville trash-transfer station have not been crushed.

“My understanding after speaking with both the County Counselor and the Planning Department … the fact that it was removed from the agenda is meaningless …,” Feder said, noting councilmen still had an additional 90 days to consider the request. “It’s just a question of what happens next. Certainly that action did not constitute any position on the council … Our reading is that County Councilman Campisi wanted to make a point that he won’t bring it up for further consideration, but that doesn’t mean that another member of the council may not choose to bring it forward.”

Noting that there is no formal appeal process for rezoning requests, Feder said what happens next is at the discretion of the council — but they do have several options.

They could do nothing, he said, conduct a public hearing or refer it to the council’s public improvements committee for evaluation.

Now that the commission’s report has been received and filed by the council, Feder said he, on behalf of Fred Weber, is drafting a letter that will encourage councilmen to consider the latter two options, urging them to introduce legislation.

“Do something. Don’t just let the bill die … That’s our next step,” he said of the letter that soon will be sent to councilmen. “We think the County Council shouldn’t just take what the commissions says at face value … Either approve it or deny it.”

“We want to have an opportunity to be heard further on this … Don’t just sit on it,” he added.