St. Louis Call Newspapers

Green Park aldermen approve Fresh Thyme store

Board votes 4-1 for store at former library location

Pictured above, a rendering of the Green Park Fresh Thyme.

Pictured above, a rendering of the Green Park Fresh Thyme.

By Mike Anthony

The third time was the charm for representatives of Fresh Thyme Farmers Market, as the Green Park Board of Aldermen approved their revised proposal to build a store in the city.

Aldermen voted 4-1 at a special meeting Monday night to approve Fresh Thyme’s proposal to construct a 28,000-square-foot store at the site of the former Tesson Ferry Branch County Library, 9920 Lin Ferry Drive. Previously, aldermen twice rejected plans for the store.

Monday night’s meeting included a public hearing that was continued from Jan. 19. Both Ward 2 aldermen — Tim Thuston and James Jones Jr. — were absent Jan. 19, and Mayor Bob Reinagel said he wanted as many board members as possible to be present to consider Fresh Thyme’s latest proposal.

Voting in favor of a resolution approving Fresh Thyme’s proposal were Ward 1 Alderman Carol Hamilton, Thuston, Jones and board President Fred Baras of Ward 3. Ward 1 Alderman Michael Broughton was opposed.

Ward 3 Alderman Joe Monteleone was absent, but Reinagel said after the vote was taken that Monteleone supported the resolution.

Fresh Thyme, which bills itself as a specialty grocer featuring healthy and organic value-priced offerings, announced in 2014 that it would open over 60 new stores and create roughly 5,000 new jobs throughout the Midwest over the next five years.

Earlier this month, the city’s Planning and Zoning Commission voted unanimously to recommend approval of a revised development plan submitted by Fresh Thyme. Hamilton, who serves on the panel, and commission member Robert Nikolai were absent from the Jan. 8 meeting.

Aldermen voted 4-2 in October to reject Fresh Thyme’s proposal to construct a 28,900-square-foot store on the 2.38-acre site of the library, which closed in November. Opposed were Hamilton, Broughton, Jones and Monteleone. Voting in favor were Thuston and Baras.

Hamilton had joined the rest of the Planning and Zoning Commission on Oct. 7 in voting to recommend approval of the preliminary site plan.

Aldermen rejected a revised proposal for a 28,650-square-foot store with the same 4-2 vote in November.

In both votes to reject Fresh Thyme’s proposal, aldermen cited concerns about the size of the building, variances requested for the building, additional traffic and the number of parking spaces.

Besides reducing the size of the store to 28,000 square feet, other changes to Fresh Thyme’s plan include:

• The building architecture has been revised to keep the structure within the maximum height allowed under city code.

• The building has been moved outside of the Lindbergh Boulevard setback to comply with the city’s 30-foot required setback.

• The parking setback along Lin Ferry Drive has been increased to 6 feet — previously it was 0 feet.

• The parking lot has been increased to 134 spaces. The city’s zoning code requires 188 parking spaces. Fresh Thyme originally proposed 131 spaces, then increased the number to 133 spaces.

• Fresh Thyme also submitted a traffic-impact study that showed the new development would not negatively impact traffic in the area.

In recommending approval of Fresh Thyme’s proposal Jan. 8, the commission agreed with the conditions requested in a statement of need, including the number of parking spaces, the parking setback along Lin Ferry, site coverage and ground signage.

Regarding site coverage, the city’s zoning code allows 80 percent site coverage, and Fresh Thyme originally proposed roughly 86 percent. The revised proposal called for 85 percent, including 7,344 square feet of permeable pavers that “will contribute to improved water quality and runoff rates, and create a gross previous site coverage in excess of the 20 percent requirement.”

City code allows either one ground sign or one pole sign. Fresh Thyme proposed one pole sign and one ground sign.

Fresh Thyme representatives have said sales at the Green Park location are estimated at $12 million annually, with the city receiving at least 85 percent of the sales tax off those sales and Lindbergh Schools receiving a substantial amount of property-tax revenue from Fresh Thyme.

At the Jan. 19 public hearing, three Lin Ferry Drive property owners, Ron Emmenegger of the Lin Ferry Investment Group, Stan Erb of the Hilvin Investment Corp. and Carol Gapsch of Gapsch Bros. Inc. reiterated their support for Fresh Thyme. All three have spoken in support of Fresh Thyme at previous meetings.

They also presented a letter to aldermen in support of Fresh Thyme that was signed by more than 25 Lin Ferry Drive business owners, including Call Publisher Debbie Baker.

During last week’s public hearing, former Ward 1 Alderman Tony Pousosa spoke in favor of Fresh Thyme’s proposal.

“… I know there’s been some concerns of oversaturation, and I ask you to remember the QT (QuikTrip) project. When we voted on that, there was some opposition because of oversaturation of gas stations, but if you look what happened, the Mobil gas station, they upped their ante and turned it into a Mobil on the Run … They retooled their store over there to compete, and that’s what we want is competition. That’s what our economy was founded upon …”

If other proposals were on the table, those would need to be considered, Pousosa said.

“If not, then you need to look at what you have before you, as opposed to letting that building sit vacant until something comes forward. The decision should not be based on protecting special interests or words of oversaturation,” he said. “And I think moving forward, this would be something that would benefit the community …”

Until the Jan. 19 public hearing, only one resident — former Planning and Zoning Commission member Jonathan Byrd — had voiced his opposition to aldermen about Fresh Thyme’s proposal.

On Jan. 19, Fredrick Uhle, who has lived in the city since 1990, voiced opposition to Fresh Thyme’s proposal.

“… I think that the idea of this public market down there is kind of a neat idea. I like the idea of having another business in town and a commercial use for that land …,” he said.

But Uhle added that “by way of disclosure” he is a 35-year member of IBEW Local 1, an officer on the local’s Apprenticeship and Training Committee and financial secretary of the AFL-CIO Union Label Service Trades Council.

“That being said, I’m not going to mention the word ‘union’ again … because my comments that I’d like to make and the questions that I’d like to pose deal with what I feel are economic fairness issues associated with Fresh Thyme’s development — not that I know what contractors right now that they’re planning on using to do this development, but knowing the building that they’ve done in the past, I do question whether they’re going to use — and I would like to pose the question to them as to whether they plan on using contractors that pay the area’s standard wage here in our city …”

He later added, “I know that Fresh Thyme has had issues paying fair wages in the past. So that was one question I was hoping that prior to any approval of this development that would be answered. Fair wages are incredibly important to our community in terms of being able to maintain our infrastructure, the quality of our community. Now I realize that the wages that could possibly be paid here may not be directly coming back into our community, but our city’s commitment to paying — or to hiring labor that pays fair wages is all a part of keeping our economy intact and keeping our local economy intact …”

As for other issues associated with the proposed development, Uhle said, “… Any of the other issues that have been brought up — the easements, the size of the building, et cetera, et cetera, I have absolutely no issue with those whatsoever. I trust the board’s good judgment to deal with those and make any allowances you see fit …”

Byrd, who served on the commission in October when the panel considered Fresh Thyme’s proposal, recused himself from that discussion and vote. But when the Board of Aldermen considered Fresh Thyme’s proposal later that month, he voiced his opposition to it. He told aldermen Oct. 19 that he opposed the store for several reasons, including setbacks, lack of parking, traffic concerns and “market saturation.”

Byrd also contended Oct. 19 that Fresh Thyme is “not friendly to the labor and trade unions in this town. They have decided to build these stores without skilled workers — local workers. They bring workers from out of state to build these stores … We have a rat coming into this town. I don’t approve of this, so not only the grocery workers in this town, but we have the building-trade workers also. So I disapprove of this company coming in …”

Byrd, who works as an organizer with Meatcutters’ Local 88 of the United Food & Commercial Workers, resigned from the Planning and Zoning Commission in early December.

In a Dec. 7 email to the city, Byrd wrote, “Due to a conflict of interest I, Jonathan Byrd, give notice of my resignation from the Planning and Zoning board of Green Park.”

    About the Writer

    Green Park aldermen approve Fresh Thyme store

    Board votes 4-1 for store at former library location

    Above, Fresh Thyme's rendering of the original Green Park store proposal.

    Above, Fresh Thyme’s rendering of the original Green Park store proposal.

    By Mike Anthony

    The third time was the charm for representatives of Fresh Thyme Farmers Market, as the Green Park Board of Aldermen approved their revised proposal to build a store in the city.

    Aldermen voted 4-1 at a special meeting Monday night to approve Fresh Thyme’s proposal to construct a 28,000-square-foot store at the site of the former Tesson Ferry Branch County Library, 9920 Lin Ferry Drive. Previously, aldermen twice rejected plans for the store.

    Monday night’s meeting included a public hearing that was continued from Jan. 19. Both Ward 2 aldermen — Tim Thuston and James Jones Jr. — were absent Jan. 19, and Mayor Bob Reinagel said he wanted as many board members as possible to be present to consider Fresh Thyme’s latest proposal.

    Voting in favor of a resolution approving Fresh Thyme’s proposal were Ward 1 Alderman Carol Hamilton, Thuston, Jones and board President Fred Baras of Ward 3. Ward 1 Alderman Michael Broughton was opposed.

    Ward 3 Alderman Joe Monteleone was absent, but Reinagel said after the vote was taken that Monteleone supported the resolution.

    Fresh Thyme, which bills itself as a specialty grocer featuring healthy and organic value-priced offerings, announced in 2014 that it would open over 60 new stores and create roughly 5,000 new jobs throughout the Midwest over the next five years.

    Earlier this month, the city’s Planning and Zoning Commission voted unanimously to recommend approval of a revised development plan submitted by Fresh Thyme. Hamilton, who serves on the panel, and commission member Robert Nikolai were absent from the Jan. 8 meeting.

    Aldermen voted 4-2 in October to reject Fresh Thyme’s proposal to construct a 28,900-square-foot store on the 2.38-acre site of the library, which closed in November. Opposed were Hamilton, Broughton, Jones and Monteleone. Voting in favor were Thuston and Baras.

    Hamilton had joined the rest of the Planning and Zoning Commission on Oct. 7 in voting to recommend approval of the preliminary site plan.

    Aldermen rejected a revised proposal for a 28,650-square-foot store with the same 4-2 vote in November.

    In both votes to reject Fresh Thyme’s proposal, aldermen cited concerns about the size of the building, variances requested for the building, additional traffic and the number of parking spaces.

    Besides reducing the size of the store to 28,000 square feet, other changes to Fresh Thyme’s plan include:

    • The building architecture has been revised to keep the structure within the maximum height allowed under city code.

    • The building has been moved outside of the Lindbergh Boulevard setback to comply with the city’s 30-foot required setback.

    • The parking setback along Lin Ferry Drive has been increased to 6 feet — previously it was 0 feet.

    • The parking lot has been increased to 134 spaces. The city’s zoning code requires 188 parking spaces. Fresh Thyme originally proposed 131 spaces, then increased the number to 133 spaces.

    • Fresh Thyme also submitted a traffic-impact study that showed the new development would not negatively impact traffic in the area.

    In recommending approval of Fresh Thyme’s proposal Jan. 8, the commission agreed with the conditions requested in a statement of need, including the number of parking spaces, the parking setback along Lin Ferry, site coverage and ground signage.

    Regarding site coverage, the city’s zoning code allows 80 percent site coverage, and Fresh Thyme originally proposed roughly 86 percent. The revised proposal called for 85 percent, including 7,344 square feet of permeable pavers that “will contribute to improved water quality and runoff rates, and create a gross previous site coverage in excess of the 20 percent requirement.”

    City code allows either one ground sign or one pole sign. Fresh Thyme proposed one pole sign and one ground sign.

    Fresh Thyme representatives have said sales at the Green Park location are estimated at $12 million annually, with the city receiving at least 85 percent of the sales tax off those sales and Lindbergh Schools receiving a substantial amount of property-tax revenue from Fresh Thyme.

    At the Jan. 19 public hearing, three Lin Ferry Drive property owners, Ron Emmenegger of the Lin Ferry Investment Group, Stan Erb of the Hilvin Investment Corp. and Carol Gapsch of Gapsch Bros. Inc. reiterated their support for Fresh Thyme. All three have spoken in support of Fresh Thyme at previous meetings.

    They also presented a letter to aldermen in support of Fresh Thyme that was signed by more than 25 Lin Ferry Drive business owners, including Call Publisher Debbie Baker.

    During last week’s public hearing, former Ward 1 Alderman Tony Pousosa spoke in favor of Fresh Thyme’s proposal.

    “… I know there’s been some concerns of oversaturation, and I ask you to remember the QT (QuikTrip) project. When we voted on that, there was some opposition because of oversaturation of gas stations, but if you look what happened, the Mobil gas station, they upped their ante and turned it into a Mobil on the Run … They retooled their store over there to compete, and that’s what we want is competition. That’s what our economy was founded upon …”

    If other proposals were on the table, those would need to be considered, Pousosa said.

    “If not, then you need to look at what you have before you, as opposed to letting that building sit vacant until something comes forward. The decision should not be based on protecting special interests or words of oversaturation,” he said. “And I think moving forward, this would be something that would benefit the community …”

    Until the Jan. 19 public hearing, only one resident — former Planning and Zoning Commission member Jonathan Byrd — had voiced his opposition to aldermen about Fresh Thyme’s proposal.

    On Jan. 19, Fredrick Uhle, who has lived in the city since 1990, voiced opposition to Fresh Thyme’s proposal.

    “… I think that the idea of this public market down there is kind of a neat idea. I like the idea of having another business in town and a commercial use for that land …,” he said.

    But Uhle added that “by way of disclosure” he is a 35-year member of IBEW Local 1, an officer on the local’s Apprenticeship and Training Committee and financial secretary of the AFL-CIO Union Label Service Trades Council.

    “That being said, I’m not going to mention the word ‘union’ again … because my comments that I’d like to make and the questions that I’d like to pose deal with what I feel are economic fairness issues associated with Fresh Thyme’s development — not that I know what contractors right now that they’re planning on using to do this development, but knowing the building that they’ve done in the past, I do question whether they’re going to use — and I would like to pose the question to them as to whether they plan on using contractors that pay the area’s standard wage here in our city …”

    He later added, “I know that Fresh Thyme has had issues paying fair wages in the past. So that was one question I was hoping that prior to any approval of this development that would be answered. Fair wages are incredibly important to our community in terms of being able to maintain our infrastructure, the quality of our community. Now I realize that the wages that could possibly be paid here may not be directly coming back into our community, but our city’s commitment to paying — or to hiring labor that pays fair wages is all a part of keeping our economy intact and keeping our local economy intact …”

    As for other issues associated with the proposed development, Uhle said, “… Any of the other issues that have been brought up — the easements, the size of the building, et cetera, et cetera, I have absolutely no issue with those whatsoever. I trust the board’s good judgment to deal with those and make any allowances you see fit …”

    Byrd, who served on the commission in October when the panel considered Fresh Thyme’s proposal, recused himself from that discussion and vote. But when the Board of Aldermen considered Fresh Thyme’s proposal later that month, he voiced his opposition to it. He told aldermen Oct. 19 that he opposed the store for several reasons, including setbacks, lack of parking, traffic concerns and “market saturation.”

    Byrd also contended Oct. 19 that Fresh Thyme is “not friendly to the labor and trade unions in this town. They have decided to build these stores without skilled workers — local workers. They bring workers from out of state to build these stores … We have a rat coming into this town. I don’t approve of this, so not only the grocery workers in this town, but we have the building-trade workers also. So I disapprove of this company coming in …”

    Byrd, who works as an organizer with Meatcutters’ Local 88 of the United Food & Commercial Workers, resigned from the Planning and Zoning Commission in early December.

    In a Dec. 7 email to the city, Byrd wrote, “Due to a conflict of interest I, Jonathan Byrd, give notice of my resignation from the Planning and Zoning board of Green Park.”

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