Proposed Green Park developments spur traffic concerns

Mayor says city taking steps to address residents’ traffic problems

By BURKE WASSON

Eleven Green Park residents who live in the Ronnie Hills subdivision area recently pleaded for city officials to be mindful of extra traffic that could spill into residential areas as a result of planned new commercial developments on South Lindbergh Boulevard.

The Board of Aldermen recently gave preliminary approval to a proposal to construct a new Lion’s Choice restaurant at 6032 S. Lindbergh Blvd., next to the current site of Fantasy Coachworks at 6034 S. Lindbergh Blvd. An existing Lion’s Choice at 6106 S. Lindbergh Blvd. will re-main open until the new restaurant is built.

The project also calls for realigning Yuma and Flori drives at their intersections with Lindbergh. A Golden Corral and a 54th Street Grill & Bar later would be constructed in the area where Lion’s Choice now is situated.

Aldermen will be asked to consider the formation of a community improvement district, or CID, to fund public infrastructure improvements for the Lion’s Choice redevelopment area. That CID would be generated by an additional sales tax of up to 1 percent on sales within the redevelopment area.

The Board of Aldermen also voted in April to give preliminary approval to a proposal to construct a QuikTrip convenience store and gas station at 6312 S. Lindbergh Blvd., the site of a former Cingular Wireless store. But residents at the board’s May 19 meeting expressed concern that the addition of three restaurants, including a fast-food restaurant near the proposed QuikTrip site, and a gas station would make already-busy residential streets even more crowded.

“At any given time, there are at least 10 to 15 kids on that street,” resident Jeff Betlach said. “And they’re talking about a new Lion’s Choice … Before you accept the almighty dollar, make sure that our children are going to be safe first. Do not dump any more traffic into that neighborhood please. We have way too much.”

Additionally, residents also called for more enforcement of traffic laws on such Ronnie Hills subdivision streets as Flori Place, Yuma Drive and Patsy Drive.

Patsy Drive resident James Jones called the traffic situation “ridiculous” and recalled that 38 cars recently traveled through the residential street in 10 minutes.

“There are also county trucks,” Jones said. “Our streets are not designed for 18-wheelers. It’s not designed for all the FedEx trucks that go through … It’s getting ridiculous. My kids cannot play out in the yard. I don’t even allow them close to the street because there are also a lot of young kids in the apartment complex behind us that speed …”

At the request of Ward 3 Alderman Mark Hayden, county Police Officer Jim McKelvey said he would explore more methods of enforcement in the Ronnie Hills area.

Mayor Tony Konopka told residents that their traffic problems are a “major consideration” and added that steps are being taken to alleviate those concerns.

“The intersection there at Flori (and Lindbergh), it’s been OK’d by (the Missouri Department of Transportation) to put a stoplight in up there,” Konopka said. “Most things are moving along … In talking about your traffic and how you have the other subdivisions cutting through Ronnie Hills, it’s proposed that there’s a stub street. And that stub street will go over into Yuma. So those people that have been using Ronnie Hills and Patsy to cut through won’t have to do that anymore. They’ll be coming through that Yuma Place stub street and going out to Flori in that direction. So that will take care of some of your concerns.

“Some of your concerns that you had about the traffic when the Lion’s Choice goes in, nothing’s carved in stone yet. They’re talking about redesigning the entrances to Lion’s Choice so it won’t make it easy for people to go into Ronnie Hills. But now we look at it two ways. You’re going to have people who live over in Ronnie Hills say: ‘Hey, I want to get back to Ronnie Hills.’ Then you’ve got other people saying: ‘We don’t want people going into Ronnie Hills.’ So we’re looking at it from both directions.

“We are going to try to make it as least invasive to the people in Ronnie Hills utilizing the way that you can configure driveways. There were talks about putting bump-outs in the streets. There’s a number of different things and not anything really carved. It’s not really drawn out yet. But your traffic is a major consideration.”

After the first three phases are completed, a connection with Yuma Place is proposed as part of the fourth phase of the project. Dianne Graham of Realty Exchange has told aldermen that two developers are interested in also constructing a residential component — likely attached villas for seniors — in that fourth phase.

As for the proposed CID, infrastructure work to be funded includes traffic needs, relocation of utilities and storm-water improvements at an estimated cost of $900,000.

And while a new traffic signal at Flori and Lindbergh would be placed at the new Lion’s Choice site, the QuikTrip proposal calls for a modification of the traffic light at Lindbergh and East Concord Road from a three-way light to a four-way light and a realignment of Concord at Lindbergh with the new development.

Despite city officials’ efforts to build new commercial developments while mitigating traffic concerns, citizens like former aldermanic candidate Michael Povich are skeptical that the developments truly will benefit nearby residents.

“It is of paramount importance that the city of Green Park address this issue and not continue to take an apathetic approach to the good taxpaying residents on Patsy Drive and in the Ronnie Hills subdivision,” Povich said. “… This whole situation has steamrolled since its incorporation, especially now with this latest fiasco, aka development on Lindbergh Boulevard. Why is the Ronnie Hills subdivision the sacrificial lamb? This has been going on over 10 years and it’s getting worse and worse and worse.”

To address these concerns and any others that residents have with safety and traffic, Ward 1 Alderman Anthony Pousosa reminded those present that the city is forming a neighborhood-watch program.

“To the residents who live on Patsy, I’ve been trying to get the neighborhood watch going in the city of Green Park,” he said. “And if any of you are interested in joining, I think that would be a positive step to help residents work together to find some solutions to your problems and then relay those to the St. Louis County Police.”