Property sale to Aldi could be approved tonight

The+Aldi+would+be+built+to+the+right+of+the+driveway+in+this+photo%2C+facing+Telegraph+Road.+Wohlwend+Elementary+is+immediately+to+the+left+from+this+photo+angle.+Photo+by+Gloria+Lloyd.

The Aldi would be built to the right of the driveway in this photo, facing Telegraph Road. Wohlwend Elementary is immediately to the left from this photo angle. Photo by Gloria Lloyd.

Dissenters ‘long on opinion, short on facts,’ Felton says

By Gloria Lloyd
Staff Reporter
news3@callnewspapers.com

After tweaking an $815,000 contract to sell land near two Mehlville School District schools in Oakville to Aldi, the Board of Education could approve the sale tonight — Thursday, June 29.
The board is set to meet at 6:30 p.m. in the Mehlville High School Library, 3200 Lemay Ferry Road.
The board hopes to peel off 1.83 acres from the larger 26-acre campus of Oakville Middle School and Wohlwend Elementary to sell to the discount grocery store chain, which would build a 19,000-square-foot store in front of the schools facing Telegraph Road.
The store would share the schools’ driveway and stoplight.
While board members say they have considered every safety issue regarding the sale and have no worries about it, some parents and neighbors oppose the plan because of traffic and safety concerns.
The board delayed the sale from its last meeting June 8 to tweak contract language it felt was too favorable to Aldi. To build, the store would have to seek rezoning from the county.
The only change made to the contract since the June 8 meeting is language that ensures that if zoning for the Aldi falls through, Aldi could not buy the property and turn around and sell it to someone else, Superintendent Chris Gaines said.
The change comes at the urging of board member Peggy Hassler, a paralegal at a law firm who routinely reviews contracts.
Board members have talked with Aldi for years and requested many contingencies built into the contract, “because if we were going to do it, we wanted to make sure it was done right,” board President Samantha Stormer said.
Among the contingencies is that the grocery store will widen the entrance driveway to OMS and Wohlwend to add a dedicated Aldi lane, and school traffic will not yield to store traffic.
A Facebook group started by parent Angie Franzi called “Stop Mehlville From Selling Wohlwend/Oakville Middle Property to ALDI” had 230 members at the time the Call went to press, although not all of them were against the sale.
An anonymous flier distributed on cars at the Oakville Walmart last week asked, “Is having the store so close to Wohlwend and Oakville Middle worth the risk while putting the safety and well-being of the students in jeopardy? Might there be more viable options in Oakville where Aldi could build that would be better suited while not putting children in danger?”
Board member Jean Pretto wrote in the anti-Aldi group that members of the school board do not believe any problems will arise with the grocery store next to the two schools.
“The children absolutely would not be in any sort of danger, in any sort of way,” Pretto wrote. “Do you honestly believe that we would continue to move forward with a plan that would jeopardize even ONE of our students? This is no joke, Angie. We are confident that this is a ‘win, win’ for our district. Your objections have been heard!”
Board member Kevin Schartner’s daughter currently attends Oakville Middle School, and Stormer and board member Jamey Murphy will send their young children to the school.
All three said they would not have moved forward with the sale if they had any safety concerns about the grocery store’s location next to the schools.
With the proceeds from the sale, the district could buy a house next to Oakville Elementary to add parking on the district’s most cramped campus.
With roughly $55 million in capital needs around the district, “it’s another $800,000 of needs that can be taken care of without the community having to pay for it,” Stormer posted, later adding, “OES is in dire need of more space, but we wouldn’t throw one school under the bus to benefit another school.”
A Wohlwend parent posted in the group that she picks up her daughter from Y Care every day at the school, and she regularly sees children darting in between cars in the parking lot.
Stormer replied, “If we have kids doing that, then it sounds like we need to have a conversation with them about how to proceed through the parking lot safely.”
Typically, residents would not know about a government land sale until after it happened because it is most often held in closed session, but Gaines chose to hold the vote in open session and place it on a public agenda.
“The board made a conscious decision to approve the sale in public session to promote transparency,” board member Larry Felton posted on Facebook last week.
But most of the Facebook posts made by parents in opposition to the sale to Aldi were “long on opinion, short on facts and even shorter on research,” Felton said.
“I wish that as a board member I didn’t see this type of reaction to transparency,” Felton said. “However, I am willing to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune and comments to be transparent to the community.”