Judge orders St. Louis County to rezone Telegraph Road site for QuikTrip Corp.


St. Louis County has been been ordered to rezone a 2.02-acre site on Telegraph Road in Oakville for a 24-hour QuikTrip convenience store with gas pumps.

The QuikTrip Corp. in 2003 requested a zoning change to the C-8 Planned Com-mercial District and Amended C-8 Plan-ned Commercial District from the 10,000-square-foot R-3 Residence District and C-8 Planned Commercial District for the site on the west side of Telegraph Road, roughly 500 feet south of Forder Road.

The Planning Commission recommended approval of the request in December 2003, but the County Council refused to act on it, automatically denying the request after it sat idle for 90 days.

QuikTrip filed suit against St. Louis County in mid-2004, challenging the denial of the rezoning request.

QuikTrip last month prevailed in that lawsuit.

In February, QuikTrip rejuvenated its effort to construct the convenience store with gas pumps. The Planning Commis-sion unanimously approved the rezoning request April 11 and the County Council had 90 days to act on the recommendation.

The last chance for the council to act was at its July 12 meeting, but County Council Chairman John Campisi asked that the request be dropped from the order of business, automatically denying the request.

QuikTrip’s proposal to build a 4,555-square-foot, nine-pump gas station and convenience store had been vigorously opposed by area residents, who raised concerns about increased traffic, safety and water runoff.

Several businesses on Telegraph Road collected roughly 2,500 signatures from customers opposed to the QuikTrip proposal.

“I had disapproved it the first time be-cause the way it was presented, but the second time I wanted to see if it was OK with the community, but obviously the community was not OK with what was presented,” Campisi told the Call in July.

As a result of Circuit Judge B.C. Drumm Jr.’s ruling, handed down Oct. 5, Quik-Trip’s rezoning request once again will be considered by the county Planning Com-mission.

The Planning Commission will conduct a public hearing at 7 p.m. Monday, Nov. 21, in the County Council Chambers in the Administration Building of the County Government Center, 41 S. Central Ave. Clayton.

QuikTrip’s lawsuit against St. Louis County alleged the current zoning is un-reasonable, arbitrary and capricious be-cause it is inconsistent with the surrounding development.

Since the land originally was zoned residential, commercial use significantly in-creased and Telegraph Road was enlarged, according to the lawsuit.

An attorney representing QuikTrip, John King of Blumenfeld, Kaplan and Sand-weiss, previously told the Call that the lawsuit was placed on hold until after the second request either was acted on or denied. This summer, he said, the lawsuit once again was in motion.

Of Drumm’s ruling, King told the Call Monday, “Justice prevails. I consider it quite a victory because it should have been approved.”

While residents may have opposed the rezoning request, he said, “Zoning is not based upon who’s for or against something. It’s based on what’s best for the community and the area, and what’s the highest and best possible use for the property.”

Besides the QuikTrip Corp., other plaintiffs filing the suit were Elizabeth A. War-ren, Jeanne Haselhorst and Edelweiss De-velopment.

In his ruling, Drumm noted that, according to testimony, the proposed QuikTrip site is situated on a part of Telegraph Road that is highly traveled and generally inappropriate for single family residential development.

“Within the immediate vicinity of the subject property on Telegraph Road, there is a Mobil service station, a car wash, a Dirt Cheap liquor store, a retail center, a dental office, a medical office and multifamily apartments, all of which are not permitted uses under the R-3 zoning district,” the judge’s ruling stated. “Excluding the property, on both sides of Telegraph Road, there are 13 parcels of property be-tween Forder and Rolens, 10 of which are zoned commercial. Moreover, plaintiffs’ testimony established the commercial value of the property far exceeded the residential value.”

Drumm’s ruling also stated, “Defendant offered no evidence showing a public benefit to retaining the current zoning. In the report, defendant’s witnesses admit plaintiff’s proposed use can be accommodated without any detriment to surrounding property. As such, plaintiffs have rebutted the presumption of the validity … Defen-dant did not establish that the present zoning is ‘fairly debatable’ as required by case law.

“Indeed, all three witnesses from St. Louis County, including the chairman of the Planning and Zoning Commission, the director of the Department of Planning and its land-use manager testified, ‘This portion of Telegraph Road is highly traveled and generally inappropriate for single-family residential development.’ Each of them agreed that commercial zoning was reasonable and appropriate at this location,” the ruling stated.

The ruling further stated, “Based upon the evidence, the court finds any public interest served by the existing zoning on the property is greatly outweighed by the determent to the private interest of plaintiffs, and as such, the current zoning is arbitrary and unreasonable.”

Campisi told the Call Monday that those opposed to the rezoning had put up a good fight, but indicated county officials would comply with the ruling.

King said he anticipated the Planning Commission would recommend approval of QuikTrip’s rezoning request — as it has done twice already — and the County Council would act to approve it.

“I hope that the council will act upon it finally prior to or just after the first of the year,” King said.