Planning panel to make decision on topsoil proposal

Property owner says lake would enhance area’s beauty, but his neighbors have environmental concerns.


An Oakville man and the neighbors he’s riled with a proposal to sell topsoil that would be cleared for a private lake on his property soon may know whether the county supports the plan.

Planning Commission Chairman Doug Morgan said last week that commissioners would take a final vote at their next meeting on Dane Eiler’s request for a conditional-use permit on his land to be able to sell topsoil left over from digging a five-acre, four-foot-deep lake.

That meeting is set for 7 p.m. Monday, March 22, in the County Council chambers at 41 S. Central Ave. in Clayton.

Eiler, who owns 29 acres between Green Road and the Meramec River zoned as a flood-plain non-urban district, first approached the county with his proposal in 2007. He says he enjoys watching the wildlife on his property and wants to build the lake to enhance the area’s beauty.

“I enjoy sitting there and watching the animals. That’s what I’ve been doing for 15 years down there,” Eiler said. “I’ve taken very great respect for my property … I’m just trying to make the place look nice.”

Officials don’t dispute Eiler’s right to dig a lake, but he must obtain a conditional-use permit to remove raw materials from the area. Eiler said he wants to sell topsoil left over from digging the lake to offset the project’s costs.

But he’s been at odds with residents of nearby Crystal Lake subdivision, who oppose his plans for environmental reasons.

During a public hearing on Eiler’s proposal in 2007, residents said they were concerned about his proposed use of Green Road as a route for trucks to haul the topsoil out of the area.

Since then, Eiler has received permission from a neighbor to the south of his property to use a road that runs parallel to the Meramec River from an entrance off Telegraph Road as a haul route, he said.

A second public hearing was conducted Feb. 22, and the county planning department has recommended the Planning Commission approve Eiler’s request.

Officials said recently they would give him three years to develop the lake and prohibit use of Green Road to haul the topsoil, among other provisions. Eiler said he’s invested his own time and money to ensure his proposal meets all regulations.

However, opponents remain concerned that Eiler’s project could cause erosion, destroy existing wetlands and send sediment into the Meramec River — potentially threatening the quality of south county’s drinking water.

While Eiler contends he has informed Crystal Lake residents of his plans, Morgan said last week he has received letters accusing Eiler of causing noise on his property and being a bad neighbor in general.

One resident, John Mika, told the commission at last month’s public hearing that Eiler’s plan will “create constant noise, airborne contaminants, dust, dirt, pollutants, disturbances, lower property values, property damage and constant threats to our health and families’ safety.”

The Meramec River Recreation Association, a citizen group that supports the greenway, also has come out against Eiler’s proposal, concluding that it would have a “cumulative negative impact to the river and the riparian corridor.”

“I don’t have a problem with this guy doing what he’s doing, but he’s not a very good neighbor to these people, and I think he needs to clean up that whole mess down there before we allow this to happen,” Commissioner Matthew Lampe said last week, citing photos presented to the commission that showed various pieces of equipment sitting out in the open on Eiler’s property.

Morgan indicated last week that he planned to vote against the proposal, referring to what he also believes is a poorly maintained property.

“I don’t think there’s anything that he can do in the next few weeks that I would vote to pass this. And I respect the staff because I understand what they’re saying but I have to look at who we’re dealing with and what it looks like now,” Morgan said. “We always try to do the fair and right thing and give people a chance, but I don’t know how we can give someone a chance when this is what they want us to base our opinion on, and my opinion is I couldn’t do that to those people.”

Eiler believes he hasn’t been given that chance. He said that while he respects his neighbors, they haven’t responded to his requests to work out their differences.

“I’m really not here to cause those people grief,” Eiler said, noting he helped build houses in the Crystal Lake subdivision and clean out its own lake. “The thing is I’ve invested all my engineering time to put this thing together and do this properly in the way the county wanted it done. It’s money out of my own pocket.

“I’ve abided by the rules, and the only thing I’m getting is slack by the neighbors, and they don’t even know me. All I’ve heard is negative, negative, negative. I think it’s very downgrading.”