School board delaying sale of property to Aldi

Sale of property contingent on Aldi getting proper zoning

The Mehlville Board of Education talks about whether to sell land next to Oakville Middle School and Wohlwend Elementary to Aldi. Pictured, from left, are: board members Kevin Schartner, Vice President Jean Pretto, President Samantha Stormer, Secretary Lisa Dorsey and Larry Felton. Photo by Gloria Lloyd.

The Mehlville Board of Education talks about whether to sell land next to Oakville Middle School and Wohlwend Elementary to Aldi. Pictured, from left, are: board members Kevin Schartner, Vice President Jean Pretto, President Samantha Stormer, Secretary Lisa Dorsey and Larry Felton. Photo by Gloria Lloyd.

By Gloria Lloyd

The Mehlville Board of Education is delaying a final decision on selling property next to two schools for an Aldi until later this month.

At the June 8 school board meeting, nearly every board member seemed in favor of selling a 1.28-acre parcel on the 26-acre campus of Oakville Middle School and Wohlwend Elementary at 5950 Telegraph Road to Aldi.

If the plan goes through and ultimately is approved by the County Council, the 19,054-square-foot grocery store would be built on the north side of the driveway entrance to OMS and Wohlwend.

The grocery store would have a right-in, right-out entrance off Telegraph Road but would share the stoplight on Telegraph Road and the schools’ driveway as its primary entrance. In exchange, the company would widen the school driveway up to its store entrance.

The $815,000 sale is contingent on Aldi getting the proper zoning from the County Council, which means it would have to go through the county Planning Commission and 6th District Councilman Ernie Trakas, R-Oakville.

Although the Aldi sale generated widespread comments both for and against on social media, just two speakers addressed it at the June 8 board meeting. Both adamantly opposed the sale.

OMS parent Rob Fischer compared the increased traffic to problems arising from the commercial property that surrounds the school his son attends, St. John Vianney High School.

“You’re going to take the odds of letting a sixth-, seventh- or eighth-grader walking around after school get hit by someone rushing into Aldi’s to pick something up?… Ludicrous, absolutely ludicrous,” Fischer said. “If you want to go down with that and somebody gets hurt and you guys approved that, have at it. Crazy.”

Future OMS parent Joe Galli said his family shops at Aldi, but he can’t believe the district is taking the idea seriously considering the “huge safety concerns” that a new grocery store at the foot of school property would introduce.

“We’re intentionally bringing those (safety issues) to our front door,” he said. “The Telegraph traffic as it is now is absolutely insane and to intentionally introduce those safety concerns is mind-boggling to me. Why would we as parents or board members or staff do that on purpose for a dollar value? … I don’t value that land for $815,000 for potentially somebody running over my child.”

Superintendent Chris Gaines does not believe the store will cause traffic tie-ups because it doesn’t open until 9 a.m., long after the schools are already in session. In the afternoon, he believes residents will learn to avoid Aldi as schools let out.

The board plans to use the money to try to buy a house next to Oakville Elementary, board member Kevin Schartner said.

Board members went from “no” to “yes” due to a series of concessions they insisted on, including the wider driveway and getting rid of a clause that required school traffic to yield to Aldi traffic.

They delayed a final vote until they next meet June 29 due to board member Peggy Hassler’s concerns that some of the wording in the contract is too favorable to Aldi and could allow the company to buy the property even if the company does not get the proper zoning.

Mehlville attorney Charles Elbert drafted the contract, but could not be reached by phone during the meeting.

Murphy and Schartner, whose children will attend OMS in coming years, agreed they have no concerns about the safety of the store.