Public hearing set on zoning for site of Oakville senior complex

Planning Commission sets July 15 public hearing

Rep. Marsha Haefner, R-Oakville, addresses the crowd of roughly 800 people who packed the gymnasium at Oakville Senior High School Friday night for a town-hall meeting sponsored by 6th District County Councilman Steve Stenger, D-Affton.

Rep. Marsha Haefner, R-Oakville, addresses the crowd of roughly 800 people who packed the gymnasium at Oakville Senior High School Friday night for a town-hall meeting sponsored by 6th District County Councilman Steve Stenger, D-Affton.

By Gloria Lloyd

A public hearing on the County Council’s request to reconsider the zoning of a 1.4-acre site where a government-subsidized apartment complex is being built at 6050 Telegraph Road in Oakville will be conducted next month by the county Planning Commission.

The Planning Commission will conduct the public hearing at 7 p.m. Monday, July 15, in the County Council Chambers at the Administration Building, 41 S. Central Ave., Clayton, according to Sixth District County Councilman Steve Stenger, D-Affton.

The County Council voted Tuesday night to approve a resolution directing the Planning Commission to conduct the public hearing on returning the property’s zoning to R-2 single-family residential.

The resolution stated the council’s intention is to initiate “reverting, changing or amending the zoning” of the site back to its original R-2 single-family residential zoning.

The rezoning to R-8 residential was recommended by the county Planning Commission in April 2012 and unanimously approved by the County Council in May 2012.

The site borders Goddard School, a preschool for children ages 6 weeks to 6 years, as well as the Tori Pines Commons mini-strip mall and, bordering the back of the property, the Monastery of St. Clare, a convent.

National Church Residences started construction a few weeks ago on the $5.1 million, three-story, 45-unit, 13,926-square-foot senior apartment complex, right after the demolition of the single-family house formerly on the property. Construction is funded with a $6 million U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, or HUD, grant, which also paid for the property purchase and an architect.

The County Council’s vote came after more than 15 speakers — including Rep. Marsha Haefner, R-Oakville, and Sen. Scott Sifton, D-Affton — addressed the council, voicing their opposition to the project and urging the adoption of the resolution.

Sixth District County Councilman Steve Stenger, D-Affton, announced his intention to introduce the resolution at a town-hall meeting June 7 that drew roughly 800 people.

“This resolution has the real potential to halt the development in question,” he said at the town-hall meeting.

Although county officials say all legally required notification procedures were followed, many residents were unaware of the development until the single-family house on the property was torn down in mid-May to make way for construction, with several key neighbors saying they did not receive the postcards the county usually mails as a courtesy to nearby business owners. At the town-hall meeting, Stenger said he had heard from “two residents out of 36,000” who had received notice of the initial public hearings, a situation he described as “untenable.”

The council voted 5-1 with one abstention to adopt the resolution. Besides Stenger, voting for the resolution were 4th District Councilman Mike O’Mara, D-Florissant; 5th District Councilman Pat Dolan, D-Richmond Heights; 7th District Councilman Greg Quinn, R-Ballwin; and 3rd District Councilwoman Colleen Wasinger, R-Town and Country.

Opposed was 2nd District Councilwoman Kathleen Burkett, D-Overland, who serves as council chair. First District Councilwoman Hazel Erby, D-University City, abstained.

In a statement he read at the meeting, County Executive Charlie Dooley said, “The council cannot lawfully go back and take away the development rights they already gave to the church for this project; but this is a council issue.

“The county executive doesn’t have anything to do with council resolutions. I certainly hope there can be some resolution to this problem that doesn’t end up costing the county — and ultimately the citizens — millions of dollars in lawsuits for the developer.”

Local officials hoping to halt a government-subsidized apartment complex in Oakville took their case to county government this week.

Sixth District County Councilman Steve Stenger, D-Affton, is now working with Rep. Marsha Haefner, R-Oakville, to stop the project. At Stenger’s town-hall meeting Friday night, he pledged to introduce a measure requesting a second public hearing at Tuesday’s County Council meeting, which took place after the Call went to press.

“This resolution has the real potential to halt the development in question,” he told a crowd of roughly 800 residents who packed the gym at Oakville Senior High School for the meeting.

The project has provoked an outcry in Oakville due to its location directly next door to the Goddard School, a preschool for children up to 6 years old.

Ohio-based senior housing nonprofit National Church Residences is building a 45-unit, 41,778-square-foot complex, which will have three stories with a footprint of 13,926 square feet each, on a 1.4-acre lot at 6050 Telegraph Road.

The project is financed through a $6 million capital grant from the Department of Housing and Urban Development, or HUD, and rent for the low-income senior citizens who will reside in the complex will be subsidized by HUD through Section 202 federal housing vouchers.

County Executive Charlie Dooley’s south county liaison, John Boesch, said county officials are concerned about the potential liability of retroactively trying to stop a development that has already won rezoning approval.

“I don’t know that we have the right to stop it,” he said. “I don’t know what our standing is. If they got approved for rezoning, and if we went in and just told them now they cannot build it, that could possibly put us in jeopardy of being sued. And if we lost a lawsuit, they would be able to build it anyway.”

Since the county Planning Commission recommended approval of the rezoning for the site in April 2012 and the County Council approved the rezoning in May 2012, a retroactive second public hearing would be unprecedented. It is necessary, however, for residents to share their concerns about the development, Stenger said .

Although county officials say all legally required notification procedures were followed, many residents were unaware of the development until the single-family house on the property was torn down in mid-May to make way for construction, with several key neighbors saying they did not receive the postcards the county usually mails as a courtesy to nearby business owners. At the meeting, Stenger said he had heard from “two residents out of 36,000” who had received notice of the initial public hearings, a situation he described as “untenable.”

In April 2012, the Planning Commission recommended approval of the Oakville site from R-2 single-family residential to R-8 residential with one abstention.

All three Oakville residents on the commission, Chairman Wayne Hilzinger, Bill Sneed and Steve Lawler, voted in favor of the development. Hilzinger has not responded to the Call’s request for comment.

“Your voice was missing from the process,” Stenger said. “… Had literally one person contacted me, I would have put the brakes on this immediately.”

The county is legally required to print a legal notice in a newspaper 15 days before the hearing. County Department of Planning land-use manager Gail Choate said Friday that the county publishes its legal notices in The Countian, a legal notice newspaper that has limited availability in Oakville.

“It meets our requirements,” she said.

“It doesn’t meet ours,” resident Christine Parrott replied.

In response to Choate’s statement that the Oakville Study does not bar three-story buildings, Haefner read aloud passages from the study. The study, written in 1989 and updated in 1998, specifies a “two-story architectural height limit” and notes that “appropriate buffering of transitions” should be given to schools and the monastery when developing sites. The NCR site also borders the Monastery of St. Clare, a convent that opened at its current location in 1959 and did not receive notice of the public hearings.

The HUD grant requires the apartments remain for senior citizens for at least 40 years, but speakers at the meeting objected to the idea that younger relatives could move into the one-bedroom units. In NCR’s 700 other low-income senior housing units in Missouri, however, 98 percent of apartments are occupied by a single person, NCR spokeswoman Karen Twinem told the Call. Usually the second person is a spouse.

The initial outcry about the complex centered on the potential for sex offenders to live next door, based on two sex offenders apparently living at two NCR-managed complexes in the city of St. Louis.

However, a man listed as a sex offender living at Roosevelt Towne Apartments is an error in the registry, Twinem said.

Since learning in the Call of the sex offender living at its Alexian Court property, Twinem said, NCR is working to evict him. He has lived there since 2004, while NCR took over management of the complex in 2007.