Planning panel recommends denial of gas station in shadow of the JB Bridge

Lawler says traffic is reason to deny Moto Mart’s station

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Photo by Erin Achenbach

The view from the site of the proposed Moto Mart along the Mississippi River, directly next to the JB Bridge.

By Erin Achenbach, Staff Reporter

A Moto Mart proposed to be built along Interstate 255 in the shadow of the Jefferson Barracks Bridge may not happen after the St. Louis County Planning Commission unanimously recommended zoning for the gas station be denied because, among other reasons, it is “not aesthetically or visually appealing at this gateway into the county along the Mississippi River.”

Moto Mart, which has 79 locations across the Midwest according to its website, petitioned for a change of zoning for nearly 11 acres of flood-plain designated land on Koch Road directly next to the Mississippi River and the JB Bridge that connects Missouri and Illinois via I-255.

The land is currently vacant and has been zoned M1 industrial district, FP flood plain and NU non-urban since the county zoning ordinance was adopted in 1965. The county Department of Planning recommended denial of the proposal to the commission at its Aug. 31 executive session, following a July public hearing on the petition, on the grounds that planners want to see a more appropriate use for the riverfront site. The ultimate decision lies with the County Council.

“The site has been zoned what it is since the adoption of the zoning ordinance. … It had that designation because of a few large storage tanks on the site. They have since been removed and it hasn’t been occupied by an industrial use in over two decades,” said staff planner Melissa Wilson. “The site is part of the 6th District Community Area Study, which is a blueprint for development in South County, specifically the 6th council district.”

According to the 6th District area study, the site of the proposed Moto is located in two areas mentioned in the plan: the Koch Veterans Affairs hospital site and the general area south of the Mississippi River bridge. The study calls for more institutional, residential and recreational uses in South County.

Moto Mart proposed a convenience store with gas pumps, including truck fueling and parking, a fast-food restaurant with a drive-thru and two advertising signs. The Koch Road location is just south of the VA Hospital as well as two Mehlville School District schools, Beasley Elementary and the John Cary Early Childhood Education Center. Directly south of the site is a quarry operated by Bussen Quarries.

“Staff does not feel it would be appropriate to introduce this sort of activity level at this interchange. … Additionally, we feel that Telegraph Road has been planned and developed as a commercialized corridor in this area and it’s located one exit to the west … that’s been planned … deliberately.” said Wilson. “Further, the proposal does not keep with the 6th District Community Area Study. … We also feel that the proposal is not aesthetically or visually appealing at this gateway into the county along the Mississippi River.”

Commission members had few comments or questions during the public hearing in July, but members of the public expressed concerns about the station’s proximity to schools, the hospital and the state line, suggesting that it would attract people with ill intent to that particular exit and provide them with easy getaway access across a state line.

Wilson told the commission that staff would likely recommend a proposal for institutional or office use on the property that could take advantage of the site’s river overlook as well as access to the interstate.

All M1 industrial uses are permitted but “it hasn’t had an M1 permitted use in 20 years. … That is existing zoning but we would recommend something as recommended in the (6th) District plan,” said Wilson.

“I took a ride down through there and the roads that come into there (the proposed site). I can’t imagine semi trucks coming that way. If you go south from that on (Koch) Road, you go down to a big place where they’re hauling rock and everything else out of a quarry,” said Commissioner Steve Lawler, who lives nearby in Oakville. “So to me, the traffic … from the trucks and everything else, I don’t think it would be safe for automobiles and I do not recommend accepting this.”