Planning Commission recommends against rezoning site of Oakville senior complex

Panel votes 6-1; Sneed casts dissenting vote

By Gloria Lloyd

The county Planning Commission recommended Monday night that the County Council reject a bid for rezoning the site of an Oakville senior apartment complex that is already under construction at 6050 Telegraph Road in Oakville.

The planning panel voted 6-1 to recommend the rezoning be rejected. Commissioner Bill Sneed, of Oakville, was the lone vote to change the project’s zoning. Sneed also was the only member of the Planning Commission who spoke during the vote, citing the lack of notification to Oakville residents as a reason to revert the zoning.

Commission Chairman Wayne Hilzinger and Commissioner Steve Lawler also live in Oakville.

The county Department of Planning recommended rejecting the rezoning, stating in its report that a senior apartment complex is a less-intensive use than the preschool located next door, the Goddard School.

“The most overriding issue is that due process was not given to the residents of Oakville,” Sneed said to applause from an audience of about 50. “The county may have met the notification process, however — it failed … Had we heard from the residents at the April 2012 meeting, I am confident this commission would not have approved this petition or at least made significant changes.

“The lack of due process, in my mind, mandates that we take the unprecedented action … and let the council decide what needs to be done at this point.”

The planning panel’s vote is only a recommendation, and the issue of the project’s rezoning now returns to the County Council. In June, the council voted 5-1, with one abstention, to approve a resolution introduced by 6th District Councilman Steve Stenger, D-Affton, that directed the Planning Commission to conduct another public hearing with the intent to revert the zoning of the 1.44-acre site to its original R-2 single-family residential classification.

The property’s rezoning to R-8 residential was recommended by the Planning Commission in April 2012 and unanimously approved by the County Council in May 2012.

A County Council ordinance to change the site’s zoning back to R-2 single-family residential could be vetoed by County Executive Charlie Dooley, but Stenger said he would work to override a veto.

If the County Council changes the site’s zoning, the developer could sue the county for damages, Dooley has said.

Thousands of Oakville residents have turned out at a series of town-hall meetings and public hearings against the three-story, 45-unit, 41,778-square-foot senior apartment complex, for reasons ranging from its size and location next to a preschool to the federal government subsidies that fund it and the lack of notification residents believe the county gave them about the public hearings conducted last year to rezone the property from R-2 residential to R-8 residential.

Developer National Church Residences, or NCR, which is the country’s largest developer of nonprofit housing for the elderly, already has invested more than $1 million into the Oakville project, spokeswoman Karen Twinem said.

Although the construction of the building itself will cost $5.1 million, a $6.7 million grant NCR received from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development also covers the $500,000 land purchase, the architect and other costs associated with construction.

The developer’s local attorney, John King, has said that the development will continue despite the ongoing rezoning process.

Construction began last week on the project’s foundation, with a fence built inches from the fence of the Goddard School. Opponents of the senior apartment complex, including Goddard School owner Cindy Pyatt, and Rep. Marsha Haefner, R-Oakville, say they will continue their efforts to halt construction.