By Gloria Lloyd
Developers are looking to build a subdivision of nearly 160 houses on 27.8 acres currently occupied by the Tower Tee golf course and driving range in Affton, which could spell the end of a beloved institution in south county.
The county Planning Commission will hold a public hearing on the proposed rezoning for the Arbors at Tower Tee subdivision at 7 p.m. Monday, Nov. 13, in the County Council Chambers at the Administration Building, 41 S. Central Ave., Clayton.
McBride Berra Land Co. proposes 99 new single-family houses and 59 attached single-family villas, or 158 total houses, on 27.8 acres of the Tower Tee property at 6727 Heege Road.
The property is owned by KSDK Channel 5’s parent company Tegna, which also owns the adjacent broadcast tower that lends its name to the recreational complex. Tower Tee has a golf course, driving range, batting cages and miniature golf.
Current owner Steve Lotz runs the family owned business, which was started by his father in 1963. The business has always leased the land from whatever company owned the Channel 5 tower.
The property was listed for sale this summer at $4.77 million. Lotz has offered to buy the property in the past and submitted a bid to buy the course, but was outbid by McBride Berra.
Since news broke last week of the golf course’s possible fate, he told the Call he has had several investors approach him offering to help match McBride Berra’s offer.
“We’ve had a surprising, tremendous outpouring of support from the community about why this is not a good idea,” Lotz said of replacing Tower Tee with a subdivision named after it. “Our facility is unique and obviously we’re proud of it, but I think a good case will be made by a lot of folks that they would really hate to see it go. We want to show the value to the community of Tower Tee and how in the long run it will be a better service and outreach than 158 homes for McBride.”
South county residents involved with the “Save Grant’s Farm” Facebook page have started a “Save Tower Tee” Facebook page, which gained 500 Facebook fans in one day last week.
With the property under contract to McBride, Lotz is encouraging residents interested in the golf course’s future to go to the public hearing.
He has no issue with his landlord Tegna or with McBride, but just wants to keep his business up and running, he added.
The golf course serves many high school and college students and is one of the few driving ranges left in the south county area.
The developers’ attorney Ed Griesedieck said in a statement that the company is asking for residential rezoning, which they believe matches the existing zoning surrounding the site. The houses have a projected sale price starting in the upper $200,000s and averaging roughly $350,000. The villas are projected to sell starting at $200,000 and averaging roughly $250,000, Griesedieck said.
The developer is seeking rezoning for a Planned Environment Unit, or PEU, in the R-5 6,000 square foot Residence District for the Tower Tee property from the current NU Non-Urban and C-8 commercial zoning.
Under county zoning laws, a PEU allows for more houses to be built on a property than could be built without a PEU because it pools the land and common ground together in the total calculation of the site.
The proposed subdivision is the most dense new subdivision proposed for south county in recent years. In comparison, other developments recently approved include Grey Oaks Estates by Oakville Elementary, which has 41 houses on 13.4 acres, and in Affton, Grant’s View by Grant’s Farm, which has 124 houses on 52 acres.
To be built, the Arbors at Tower Tee would have to be approved by the planning panel and the County Council, chiefly 5th District Councilman Pat Dolan, D-Richmond Heights. The district is also close to the 6th District of Councilman Ernie Trakas, R-Oakville.
After the public hearing, the soonest the development could get to the council would be around the first of the year.
The new subdivision would be in the Affton School District, which is not taking a public stance on the project, Communications Director Erica Chandler said. The district recently hired a demographer to conduct studies on the impact of the Tower Tee development and another 38-home development under construction across from Affton High School.
McBride Berra is a collaboration of homebuilder McBride & Son and Oakville-based developer J.H. Berra. The two companies previously built the Grant’s View subdivision. Grant’s View is also a mix of single-family houses and attached villas, in the Manors at Grant’s View section next to the Grant’s View Branch County Library off Gravois Road.
Griesedieck also represented J.H. Berra in the company’s last bid for county rezoning.
The company ultimately dropped plans last year for a 250-unit apartment complex Berra proposed at Bauer Road and Tesson Ferry Road after a strong outcry from neighbors against the complex.