Proximity to school concerns residents opposed to senior apartment complex

Three-story building will loom over preschool, owner says

By Gloria Lloyd

Foremost among the concerns of residents speaking against a government-subsidized housing complex is its location 8.5 feet away from the Goddard School, a preschool for children ages 6 months to 6 years.

The senior apartment complex under construction at 6050 Telegraph Road is bordered by the school, the Monastery of St. Clare and the Tori Pines Commons mini-strip mall. The monastery opened in 1959 and the school in 2000. Goddard School has about 120 students.

At a county Planning Commission meeting last week, members of the crowd gasped as Oakville resident Al Fanger showed the panel images he made superimposing National Church Residences’ rendering on top of pictures of the Goddard School and Telegraph Road to show what the completed building will look like.

Since the first community meeting organized against the development, Goddard School owner Cindy Pyatt has said the size of the three-story building is difficult for her to accept.

The school’s playground is like an outside classroom, where students go for lessons and to tend their gardens, Pyatt said.

The playground’s grading sits several feet below the complex, making the three-story building “loom” even more over the playground, she noted.

In his presentation to the planning panel, the designer of the project, St. Louis Design Alliance senior architect Todd Watts, confirmed that several of the apartment building’s units will have a direct sight line onto the Goddard School playground, located behind the school.

Several of the speakers at the Planning Commission’s July 15 hearing commented on the detrimental effect they believe the $5.1 million, 41,778-square-foot building will have on the Goddard School and the monastery, emphasizing the large size of the three-story building compared to the 1.44-acre lot and to its neighbors.

“This is a broad cross-section of the community that opposes it. I think the size of the crowd makes that clear,” said Sen. Scott Sifton, D-Affton. “Very simply, this is 15 pounds of potatoes in a 10-pound bag.”

Sister Mary Michael of the Monastery of St. Clare told Planning Commission members she would pray for them to do the right thing — and in the minds of the nuns of the monastery, that means halting construction. She outlined the cloistered nuns’ concerns that the 45-unit apartment complex could disturb their monastery.

When the nuns moved to their location off Telegraph Road, it was still surrounded by farmland “that would give us the privacy our life demands,” she noted.

The concerns the nuns have about the complex include lighting, fencing, privacy, foot traffic on their property, potential accidents involving a pond they own near the National Church Residences building site and noise.

The Oakville Community Area Study, which Department of Planning land-use manager Gail Choate has said the county uses as a guideline for development in the area, states that the nuns’ needs and concerns will be taken into consideration in regard to development. It also mandates that buildings be no more than two stories.

“We are praying, since that’s our job, that they can find another piece of land in a much better location,” Sister Mary Michael read from a letter signed by all the nuns of the monastery. “We are praying for you that you will make the best choice for all involved.”

One of the five speakers who favored the complex, Oakville resident and retired kindergarten teacher Ginny Schrappen, said she did not understand the concerns of Goddard School parents or that a three-story building could block the playground.

Schrappen taught kindergarteners in the basement of a building, she said, and they did not care what was next to their school.

“This is what they cared about: seeing their friends at school, playing and learning in a healthy environment and being with their teacher, whom they usually adored,” she said. “They always looked forward to going out to recess to play and be with their friends, totally unaware of their surroundings.”

Like another speaker, a current National Church Residences tenant who lives in Grace Gardens, NCR’s building in St. Peters, Schrappen believes the Goddard School students could bring joy to the senior citizens next door, benefiting all.

“I cannot understand the objections and the threat of having senior citizens live next to the Goddard School,” she said. “The joy it will bring to seniors as they hear the children’s young voices is priceless.”

National Church Residences spokeswoman Karen Twinem said the company will erect a 6-foot-high opaque privacy fence and that the average NCR resident is a 79-year-old woman.