South St. Louis County News

St. Louis Call Newspapers

South St. Louis County News

St. Louis Call Newspapers

South St. Louis County News

St. Louis Call Newspapers

June hearing planned on Gravois Road subdivision lawsuit

Grassroots on Gravois slates open house for Monday, Feb. 19

A June hearing is planned for a lawsuit seeking to halt a County Council-approved Gravois Road subdivision of more than 400 homes across from Grant’s Farm.

A hearing on the lawsuit, which was filed last year by Grantwood Village residents against St. Louis County, is scheduled June 7 and June 8 in St. Louis County Circuit Court, according to Mac Scott, spokesman for County Executive Charlie Dooley.

Although the lawsuit originally was filed against the county, the owner of the land in question — Andy Busch of the Anheuser-Busch family — since has joined the fight on the side of the county. Busch successfully filed a motion to intervene in November and now is a defendant alongside St. Louis County in the case.

While the lawsuit has stopped Busch’s sale of the land, he agreed in November 2005 to sell the 94.4-acre plot to the Gravois Co. — a collection of local home builders — for $23.6 million, or $250,000 per acre.

The County Council subsequently adopted two ordinances in May 2006 approving zoning and a planned-environment unit, or PEU, on Busch’s property for the 439-home Villages at Grant’s Trail subdivision.

Each measure was approved 5-2 with then-5th District Councilman Kurt Odenwald, R-Shrewsbury, and then-3rd District Councilman Skip Mange, R-Town and Country, opposed. The 5th District includes Grantwood Village, but the Gravois Road property in dispute is across from the municipality in the 6th District, which is represented by Councilman John Campisi, R-south county.

In June, Grantwood Village residents Mike Jones, Paul Fleischut, Bradley Schmitt, Christine Welge, Michael Cukyne and Marvin Wilds filed suit against the county. The lawsuit contends that the county’s PEU ordinance would only allow for a maximum of 363 homes at the site of the Villages at Grant’s Trail instead of the planned 439.

The lawsuit also seeks a permanent injunction to prevent the County Council from approving the PEU.

As a way to further fund the legal challenge, Grassroots on Gravois — a group of residents who live near the proposed subdivision — has scheduled a community open house from 7 to 9 p.m. Monday, Feb. 19, in the upper level of the Grantwood Village Town Hall.

Jones told the Call that the open house is less of a meeting and more of a way to reintroduce the community into Grantwood Village’s legal battle.

“We have funded this lawsuit very successfully at this point,” Jones said. “And tactically speaking, we’re continuing to do so. But strategically, we want to make sure that we can push this thing through trial. And we have a trial date now that’s moved from April to June. So we need to be able to ensure that we’re budgeted for a fight that’s two to three months longer than we had anticipated. That’s a big part of the rationale for having this meeting. We’re trying to make sure that we can get people that have already contributed in — and there’s a large number of them — to continue to support us.”

Mange and Odenwald are two such supporters of the group and both made monetary contributions to fund the lawsuit against the county while they still served on the County Council.

Besides halting Busch’s sale to the Gravois Co., the lawsuit also stopped a pending agreement between the Gravois Co. and Cor Jesu Academy, an all-girls Catholic high school adjacent to Busch’s property.

The developers had agreed to sell four acres to Cor Jesu for the school’s further expansion of athletic fields. Because the lawsuit stopped Busch’s sale to the Gravois Co., Cor Jesu was not able to meet the Aug. 21 deadline to sign the agreement and has no ownership of the property.

Grantwood Village residents also have discussed the possibility of annexing Busch’s property to stop the subdivision.

Grantwood Village has between April 15 and July 1, 2010, to submit a plan of intent to annex property, according to Boundary Commission Executive Director Michelle Dougherty.

Map plans for the possibility of future annexation have been submitted to the Boundary Commission. One map includes Busch’s property, and the other considers annexation of the south side of Rock Hill Road, the north side of Gravois Road and a portion of Laclede Station Road.

Last year, the Boundary Commission received 42 public comments on the possible annexation from nearby residents.

Jones, who submitted public comments to the Boundary Commission, wrote that he favors the annexation of Busch’s property so that Grantwood Village officials can determine a density that is safe for residents and will not greatly increase traffic along Gravois Road.

“Grantwood Village is enthusiastic about the area and its future,” Jones wrote in a Nov. 7 letter to the Boundary Commission. “None of us is opposed to residential development in the area, but we are unanimously opposed to overly dense development in the name of short-term developmental interests. We ask for the Boundary Commission to allow Grantwood Village an active hand in determining the safest way to develop the area, balancing out competing interests toward a rational development.”

Jones’ sentiments were not shared, however, with Affton resident and Jefferson County Suburban Journals Managing Editor Bill Phelan, who also submitted public comments.

Phelan, who identified himself on a Suburban Journals letterhead in his comments mailed to the Boundary Commission, wrote that Grantwood Village residents are using a “not-in-my-back-yard” argument in their opposition to the development on Busch’s property.

“It never ceases to amaze me how residents of one neighborhood feel justified in dictating the development of private property in an adjoining neighborhood just because they’ve lived in the area a long time,” he wrote in a Sept. 20 letter to the commission. “If the residents of Grantwood Village do not want further residential development near their homes, they have the option of moving. This is nothing more than a case of NIMBY (not in my back yard). While the residents of Grantwood Village claim they do not oppose ‘sensible’ development of the Andy Busch property, the real truth is that they would have opposed any development of the site. Like many residents in Jefferson County, these folks evidently expected to be the last people to move to St. Louis County and oppose any change to the surrounding area …”

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