No cluster homes: Sunset Hills needs to keep standards for zoning

Letters+to+the+editor

Letter to the Editor

To the editor:

On April 8, Fischer & Frichtel withdrew its proposal for the property at Lincoln Drive and Robyn Road off South Lindbergh. It took nine months to get here. Now what?

Those of us who opposed the development agree that any new development must, at the minimum, comply with the current R2 zoning (20,000-square-foot lot size). Some favor an inner road that channels all of the traffic from the subdivision out a revamped entrance way onto Lincoln Drive. At the December board meeting, City Engineer Bryson Baker said the parcel could be developed with eight or nine houses to comply with R2 zoning with an interior road. The other alternative would have no more than10 houses, with driveways coming out onto Lincoln Drive, Roosevelt, South Lindbergh and Robyn. Only one or two driveways would exit directly onto South Lindbergh.

This scenario has some benefits: 1. it could easily comply with R2 zoning, 2. it disburses the traffic from the subdivision over several streets, 3. it conforms with the usual neighborhood configuration, with houses facing out to the street, and 4. the homes would be custom homes, like the newer homes in the area.

But there is another option for a savvy developer. There is a market for large, estate type houses.

Since 2006, four large houses — 4,500 square feet plus total living area according to the assessor — have been built in the Fox Meadows subdivision alone, including one at the corner of Fox Meadows and Lindbergh, which has 5,200 square feet on 2.24 acres. This refutes the argument that no one wants to build on South Lindbergh. This option, with a few estate type houses, is the most promising and would be a proper replacement for the existing estate.

Already, one resident in this area indicated to me that she would call the developer to see if she could purchase a large lot and build a substantial custom home. With great schools, a great location and lots of other amenities, there is a demand for custom homes in this area. That is the Sunset Hills brand.

While the residents in this area may have won this battle, we certainly have a way to go before vacant parcels in this area are developed consistent with the neighborhood and the comprehensive plan. The residents must remain diligent and active.

Sunset Hills is in the process of amending its zoning code. Some of the proposed changes in the residential code seem to be a step backwards. For example, the R2 zoning district is now 20,000 square feet, the R3 zoning district is now 15,000 square feet and the R4 zoning district is now 10,000 square feet.

The February draft of the new zoning code reduces lot sizes to 15,000 square feet, 7,500 square feet and 5,000 square feet, respectively. Why reduce lot sizes in the different zones in a city that is 95 percent developed? And planned developments, such as the Fischer & Frichtel proposal, will no longer have lot size requirements or many of the other standards that now exist.

Without firm standards, residents opposing planned development in their neighborhoods will be left with only subjective arguments.

Two things are self-evident: 1. the residents in this area want something better than the Fischer & Frichtel proposal, and 2. there should be an open, town hall type meeting before the next proposal goes before the Planning and Zoning Commission, giving the residents a voice in the development of this property, not just the three minutes allotted when speaking before the Board of Aldermen.

We will be waiting to see what the next developer offers. In the meantime, we are saving our “No Cluster Homes” signs.

Gary Vincent

Sunset Hills