Green space sought by opponents of St. Anthony’s expansion plans

Concerns about more traffic, stormwater raised by citizens.

By EVAN YOUNG

Green space, ideally, should be the only thing visible to the south of Nottinghill subdivision when St. Anthony’s Medical Center finishes its proposed expansion, more than 50 of the subdivision’s residents told their county councilman last week.

Residents who oppose the medical center’s plans to develop land near their property lines met May 10 with 6th District Council Vice Chair Steve Stenger, D-south county.

St. Anthony’s wants the county to rezone nearly 104 acres along Kennerly and Tesson Ferry roads to an all-commercial district from a mix of residential and commercial districts.

The new zoning would allow the center to proceed with what it contends is a 25-year master plan to add new medical offices, parking and other facilities.

But Nottinghill residents told Stenger they would like to see a roughly 325-foot-wide stretch of land between their subdivision and Sunset Drive remain zoned as residential and be left as green space.

They are concerned St. Anthony’s proposal could harm their property values as several of the proposed additions to the campus, such as surface parking lots and a parking garage, would abut their backyards.

Residents also are concerned about a higher volume of traffic and increased stormwater runoff onto their properties from the proposed parking lots.

The county Planning Commission voted unanimously during an executive session May 3 to delay its decision on the medical center’s rezoning request. The commission was scheduled to meet again Monday — after the Call went to press. If the request is approved, it next would go before the County Council.

In postponing a decision, commissioners said May 3 they want the medical center to consider changing its plan so that no building or parking structure would be constructed between the Nottinghill boundary and an internal road that is proposed where Sunset Drive is now.

Under St. Anthony’s proposal, work would begin next year on the master plan’s first phase, which involves removing Anthony House and building a four-story, 120,000-square-foot medical office building to the northwest of the main hospital — one of five office buildings proposed in all.

Besides a 25-year window, though, there is no definitive timeline for building the remaining proposed additions; they would be added based on the needs of the community, St. Anthony’s officials have said.

Other proposed additions and changes to the medical center campus include:

• Removal of the two-story, 51,353-square-foot Hyland Center.

• Relocation of the existing heliport.

• Addition of a two-story, 50,000-square-foot wing of medical offices and a two-story, 20,000 square-foot emergency pediatrics wing to the main hospital.

• Construction of a one-story, 14,000-square-foot maintenance storage building.

• Construction of a 3,034-square-foot electric substation.

But after an April 19 public hearing at which 15 people raised their hands against the proposal, St. Anthony’s officials met with Nottinghill residents and submitted to the county a revised master plan that:

• Eliminates a 20,000-square-foot central utility plant that was 95 feet from the Nottinghill boundary, which residents have con-tended would’ve created noise.

• Increases the setback of surface parking lots from the Nottinghill boundary to 40 feet from 20 feet.

• Increases the setback of a four-story medical office building and conference center from the Nottinghill boundary to 100 feet from 50 feet.

• Reduces the height of one of three proposed parking garages — the structure closest to Nottinghill — from five stories to three stories.

• Increases the landscaping buffer between the subdivision and St. Anthony’s property.

• Reduces the amount of additional parking to 4.12 spaces per 1,000 square feet of medical offices from the normal 4.5 spaces per 1,000 square feet of medical offices, which would decrease stormwater runoff.

The Department of Planning has recommended approval of St. Anthony’s plan but has added its own suggestions:

• Increase the surface parking setback an additional 50 feet and include a landscape berm.

• Limit the height of parking lot lights located within 200 feet of the Nottinghill boundary to 16 feet, which is the standard for subdivisions, and 24 feet everywhere else. The lights also should incorporate a “shoebox” design to better direct the light into the lots and limit the amount of light visible from Nottinghill properties.

• Use environmentally friendly building and design concepts.

But Nottinghill residents believe even the revised setbacks still are too close to their homes.

“We’re not against the expansion. We’re really against their aggressive use of the land that they have,” Nottinghill trustee Joe Rottman told the Call. “They could be much better stewards of that land — and neighbors — if they gave a little more thought to buffers in the 100- to 200-foot range, as opposed to 20 feet.

“If St. Anthony’s proposed staying on their side of Sunset (Drive) with an appropriate buffer in the current green space, I think that Nottinghill subdivision would quietly approve that and let St. Anthony’s have their way on this. But I haven’t heard if that’s even on the table yet.”

He also suggested St. Anthony’s consider leasing empty properties along Tesson Ferry Road for some of its proposed facilities.

Sandy Griffin, whose home borders the medical center campus on Tanbridge Road, said at last week’s meeting with Stenger that the medical center’s proposal, even as currently amended, still would negatively affect the “quality of life” of Nottinghill residents.

The sound of car alarms and doors slamming in the proposed parking lot still would be audible in the subdivision, people in the office building still could peer out the windows onto residents’ property and stormwater runoff from the parking lot still could pond in backyards, Griffin said.

“We wouldn’t ever want to deny a property owner the right to request a change in zoning, because that is the property owner’s right. But at the same time I feel St. Louis County should protect and respect their neighbors,” she said, and later added, “St. Anthony’s can create just as many projects and jobs by using other areas of their property without destroying ours.”

Stenger told residents he would take their concerns to county and St. Anthony’s officials, but also urged them to remain open to negotiation.

He said the proposed expansion is a regional issue because St. Anthony’s employs so many people in the area. Therefore, simply voting against the entire plan would do little good, Stenger said.

“My ‘no’ vote wouldn’t get us much,” he told the residents, “because they’re going to go around us in some way, shape or form if it gets to that point.

“I think at the end of the day not everyone’s going to be happy,” he added. “I don’t think St. Anthony’s is going to leave absolutely happy, and I don’t know that you’re going to leave absolutely happy. But I hope we can get to a point where it’s at least something that’s manageable — and doesn’t destroy your property values.”