Planning panel recommends OK of gas station for Johnny’s site

County Council to make final decision

Johnny's Market, a south county institution that featured a variety of local produce and foods, closed its doors in 2012 after 68 years in business. A Circle K convenience store with gas pumps and a car wash is proposed for the site. (

Johnny’s Market, a south county institution that featured a variety of local produce and foods, closed its doors in 2012 after 68 years in business. A Circle K convenience store with gas pumps and a car wash is proposed for the site. (

By Gloria Lloyd

The county Planning Commission recommended approval of a new gas station for the former site of Johnny’s Market last week, but did not recommend the overnight hours and car wash that the developer wants.

The planning panel automatically held the plans several times after taking votes on the project because the proposal did not gain enough votes for a recommendation for or against. But the planning panel voted at its June 1 meeting to unanimously recommend the gas station plans as outlined by the county Planning Department, which does not match up with what developer Meland Properties is requesting.

Voting in favor of the project were Chairman Wayne Hilzinger of Oakville and panel members Steve Lawler of Oakville, Bill Sneed of Oakville, Molly McHugh of Webster Groves and Keith Taylor of Ballwin. Member Matthew Lampe moved out of the county after the public hearing, so the eight-member panel now has seven voting members. Member Rob Forney of Kirkwood and Secretary William Ballard of north county did not attend last week’s meeting.

A final decision on the project lies with the County Council. The project is in Council Chairman Pat Dolan’s 5th District, and Dolan attended the original public hearing March 16.

The site at 11555 Gravois Road, at the intersection of Gravois, Denny and Sappington roads, was the site of local grocery Johnny’s Market for 68 years until it closed in 2012.

At the public hearing, neighbors from properties bordering the site and aldermen from Sunset Hills, with city limits across the street, requested denial of the project because of noise, traffic and safety concerns, along with decreasing property values.

Twice, the panel has held the zoning after not having enough votes to approve it, amid concerns about whether the station should operate 24 hours and whether visitors to the World War II memorial in the triangle at the intersection in front of the site would have sufficient parking.

At the April 20 meeting where the project was held for the second time, county land-use manager Gail Choate noted that Meland still wants the county to approve 24-hour operations along with the car wash. The developer did not modify its plans to include all the other requests from county officials, including larger setbacks from the side of the gas station that borders the World War II Memorial.

On April 20, the planning panel voted to approve the project 4-3, but any approval requires five votes, so the project was automatically held again. Opposed to the project were Ballard, Taylor and Hilzinger. Forney, Lawler, Sneed and Molly McHugh voted in favor.

The panel held the project April 6 on a 2-3-1 vote, with Taylor abstaining, Sneed absent and the others voting the same way.

“It’s just not fronting as much as I would prefer on Gravois, and personally I believe there’s a higher and better use for the property than a 24-hour gas station and car wash,” Hilzinger said at that meeting.