Panel recommends rezoning for library site; road improvements mandated

Developer withdraws plans for subdivision off Schuessler

By Gloria Lloyd

The county Planning Commission recommended approval of rezoning for the new Tesson Ferry Branch Library and a neighboring development at Musick and Gravois roads — but even with that zoning, the proposed library in Affton is not yet a done deal.

The planning panel voted 6-1 last week to approve the county Department of Planning’s recommended R-5 zoning rather than the R-6A rezoning that the library and developer McBride Berra requested for the adjoining sites. Commission member Steve Lawler of Oakville voted against the rezoning, saying he opposes the new library location.

However, the Missouri Department of Transportation and the county Department of Highways and Traffic have told library officials they cannot build an entrance onto Musick Road until multiple improvements are made to the surrounding roads, including:

• Adding a third lane to Musick Road, from Gravois Road to Hayden Hill Drive.

• Lowering the crest of a hill at Ashburn Court.

• Installing and replacing sidewalks on both sides of Musick Road.

• Upgrading the traffic signal at Musick and Gravois.

The intersection at Gravois and Musick currently has no turn lanes.

The library’s traffic study, conducted by traffic engineers Crawford, Bunte, Brammeier, found the intersection already has enough traffic to warrant the construction of left and right turn lanes even before the addition of the library.

Taking into account the new library and the neighboring 48-home “Manors at Grant’s View” subdivision proposed by McBride Berra, the Missouri Department of Transportation is requiring that both right- and left-hand turn lanes be installed at the Gravois and Musick intersection for either development to occur.

In light of the zoning delays, the library has extended its closing date on the property with McBride Berra to Feb. 28, interim library Executive Director Kristen Sorth told the library Board of Trustees at its October meeting.

For safety reasons, highway and transportation officials want all the improvements to happen at the same time, but altogether they are very expensive, noted Gail Choate, county land-use manager for the Department of Planning.

“Those improvements are significant from the standpoint of how much they’re going to cost, and these two developments aren’t going to pay for all of these improvements,” she said. “There’s a general understanding that there’s going to have to be a joint agreement to accomplish all of these.”

“If all of this changes, who’s going to pay for all that? I’m sure the developer isn’t,” Lawler said.

Library Communications Director Jennifer McBride has said the Gravois and Musick site was chosen over sites closer to the current library in part for financial reasons.

“The library considered over 25 locations for the new Tesson Ferry,” she said. “The Musick/Gravois site was the most viable option, providing enough space for the library’s needs — without a costly demolition or environmental concerns.”

The county collects money from each new development based on the number of parking spaces and the traffic generated from the development for the county’s Traffic Generation Assessment fund, which pays for road improvements in the area.

In some cases where developers have paid more for improvements near their development than their traffic assessment fee, they have been repaid later by the traffic fund, Department of Planning Director Glenn Powers said.

State, county and library officials and representatives of McBride Berra are meeting to determine who will pay for what improvements and where, he added.

Negotiations are further complicated because Gravois is a state highway, and Musick is overseen by the county.

The panel unanimously granted R-5 zoning to the Manors at Grant’s View, rather than R-6A.

The Department of Planning’s aim in recommending different rezoning than the library and McBride Berra requested is that in case the library plans fall through, McBride Berra could still develop the property for a subdivision of single-family houses, Powers noted. R-6A zoning, however, also allows for multifamily units, while R-5 zoning does not.

With negotiations on paying for highway improvements up in the air, Lawler believes the planning panel should not change the library’s zoning.

“Why would we change it if we don’t know what they’re going to do with it?” he said. “I don’t think the library belongs there. Who’s going to spend all that money anyway?”

“The library is still interested in this property,” Choate replied.

In a separate matter, a developer asked the Planning Commission to withdraw its subdivision planned for Schuessler Road, and the panel unanimously approved the plans’ “withdrawal without prejudice.”

That means that developer J.H. Berra could bring back a new subdivision plan within a year.

After the Department of Planning recommended denial of the proposed 35-home “Estates at Briarcliff” subdivision, the panel voted in September to hold the plans so that Berra could bring back revised plans.