South St. Louis County News

St. Louis Call Newspapers

South St. Louis County News

St. Louis Call Newspapers

South St. Louis County News

St. Louis Call Newspapers

Proposed Villages at Gravois Creek worry nearby residents

A proposed development that would bring roughly 450 homes to the Gravois Road area across from Grant’s Farm slowly is moving forward with the County Council, but has nearby residents worried.

A zoning change from non-urban to residential for the site of the Villages at Gravois Creek, a 94.4-acre project being developed by the Gravois Co., is scheduled to be considered Tuesday, April 18, by the County Council as a Committee of the Whole. The committee could move for a vote at that time, but any binding votes must be done in a regular session of the County Council. The county Planning Commission early last month recommended approval of the zoning change to the County Council.

As proposed, the homes would be split into three sections with a combination of housing, including single-family homes and condominiums.

Andrew Busch sold the property for Gravois Creek in 2005 to the Gravois Co., which is led by J.H. Berra and also includes contractors Fischer and Frichtel, Mayer Custom Homes, the Chesterfield Development Co. and McBride and Son Homes. The developer paid $23.6 million for the property, which breaks down to $250,000 per acre.

But some residents living in the Gravois Road and Musick Avenue area say while they would be naive to think the land never would be developed, they also believe the project has been rushed through county government without enough study. Concerns about the increased volume of traffic the project would bring — along with potential flooding and greater density more than many neighbors would like — have been raised to members of the County Council and Planning Commission alike.

County Council Chairman Kurt Odenwald, R-Shrewsbury, suggested last week the matter be referred to the Committee of the Whole so that all council members would have the opportunity to hear the zoning change proposal.

As for the councilman who represents the district in which the development has been proposed, John Campisi, R-south county, said he has yet to make a final decision because he, too, is looking for more information on the matter.

“I was voted in as a councilman,” Campisi said. “A councilman’s job is to look at both sides before you make a decision. Based on what my constituents and various departments say, that’s when I make my decision.”

While Campisi has told residents that he would take both theirs and the Gravois Co.’s concerns into consideration, some of the homeowners near the proposed development are not so sure.

“We feel like we have Kurt Odenwald’s ear,” said Grantwood Lane resident Pat Bartolacci Jones. “But John Campisi, we don’t think we have his ear.”

Jones and several residents attending a town-hall meeting scheduled by Campisi early last month at the St. Louis County Library’s Weber Road Branch criticized Campisi for not being as available as Odenwald and other councilmen like Skip Mange, R-Town and Country.

Despite their issues with Campisi, residents realize that he is a crucial element to the fate of the development that could move into their back yard. For that reason, a group of residents known as the Citizens Near the Proposed Villages at Gravois Creek rescheduled a public meeting once they discovered Campisi was unable to attend a meeting originally set for March 23.

The group’s next meeting is set from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. Wednesday, April 12, in the Lindbergh High School cafeteria, 4900 S. Lindbergh Blvd. Campisi and Odenwald both agreed to attend the public forum.

Mike Jones, who is the husband of Pat Bartolacci Jones, recently invited each of the County Council members to attend the public meeting to obtain as much input as possible from all sides.

Campisi also has said he is working toward the same goal as the residents — to seek more information.

“None of the councilmen want to shut anybody out,” Campisi said. “That’s what you put me in office for — to take a look at issues from all sides. I represent the constituents in my area first and foremost. I also take the developers into account.”

Among those issues that residents and county officials will be studying during the next few weeks is the anticipated traffic surge that the Villages at Gravois Creek would bring. The Missouri Department of Transportation estimates that more than 30,700 people travel Gravois Road each day.

Residents have also pointed out a county police study that shows 46 traffic accidents were reported in 2005 along the half-mile stretch of Gravois Road running next to the proposed subdivision plot.

Gravois Co. representatives have proposed adding left-hand turn lanes at Gravois Road east of Grant Road and also at Musick Avenue’s intersection with Brookmere Drive as a way of easing the burdens the extra traffic is expected to bring.

But Mike Jones said it is clear that more traffic studies are needed because of the lack of depth in the Gravois Co.’s traffic study at Gravois Road and Musick Avenue done on a single day in October 2005. He said the study did not take into account the extra traffic that Grant’s Farm brings in the summer and also did not consider traffic for Whitecliff Park, the Affton Athletic Association fields and the Ulysses S. Grant National Historical Site.

“It is not just unrealistic,” Mike Jones said, “but highly unsafe when all these factors are compressed into a .5-mile area of 40-mph speed limit.”

Grantwood Village resident Ed Brimer said Gravois Road is already dangerous enough and cannot imagine what driving would be like with a whole new neighborhood placed into the area.

“You try to make a left onto Gravois coming up the hill, and then they’re going to have another street also making a left straight across Gravois just 100 yards from the intersection,” Brimer said. “And what about at night when two people are trying to cross Gravois and you really don’t know who’s going to race out first? You collide in the middle of the street.”

Residents have also been concerned with potential flooding problems from Gravois Creek that could come if the new homes are built.

“Right now all that wonderful land serves as a way to soak up the water that rises very quickly from Gravois Creek,” said Pat Bartolacci Jones. “That is a huge concern. That’s a huge concern for Affton Athletic Complex. The gulf trail slopes downwards. Affton Athletic is downhill. The way the water flows, they have been flooded out many times and they are very concerned about it. When you plop down and cram in that many housing units and asphalt and concrete, the water has nowhere to go.”

With all of these concerns and studies that have either already been accomplished or are still waiting to be done, Campisi said he would not rush to judgment as some residents have accused him of doing. Like any other councilman, Campisi said he has to know the details of each project in his district, and that is what he intends to find out before he makes a final decision.

“It is the job of a councilman to first and foremost represent their area and do their homework,” Campisi said. “The other councilmen look to each other for what to do in their district. That’s what the councilmen will look to me for.”

But Pat Bartolacci Jones said she believes Campisi is too confident when he says the other councilmen will follow his decision and points out Odenwald’s and Mange’s problems with the project. Before the project goes to the County Council for a final vote, she hopes the council will take those concerns into consideration.

But for now, she and the rest of the nearby residents can only hope that all the homework is done before the green space they love to see is filled with homes.

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