Senior apartment complex in Oakville back before council

Planning panel recommended against changing site’s zoning

By Gloria Lloyd

With a housing complex for the elderly now back before the County Council, the many players in the issue of the site’s zoning continue to be at odds.

A report from the county Planning Commission recommending against rezoning the Oakville site of the government-subsidized complex was on the County Council agenda for its meeting Tuesday night — after the Call went to press.

Karen Twinem, spokeswoman for Ohio-based National Church Residences, or NCR, said the developer expected to see the council vote Tuesday night, but the owner of the preschool next door to the project, Cindy Pyatt, said she did not yet anticipate a vote.

Pyatt, who owns Goddard School, and Michelle Norris, vice president of public policy at NCR, met separately last week with council members, lobbying for votes for and against the complex, under construction at 6050 Telegraph Road in Oakville.

Norris cleared up some misunderstandings about the complex in her meetings with council members, Twinem said. A persistent myth is that the apartment complex is not for seniors — the developer is required by the $6.7 million project’s funder, the Department of Housing and Urban Development, or HUD, to keep the project as a senior complex for the next 40 years, and separately the county has zoned it only as a senior housing complex.

Sixth District County Councilman Steve Stenger, D-Affton, was unavailable for comment before the Call’s press time.

Pyatt has formed a nonprofit organization, Concerned Citizens of Oakville, that has received donations from residents and hopes to raise enough to post a $65,000 bond, or 1 percent of the total construction cost, to obtain an injunction against construction.

In the County Council’s unanimous approval of zoning for the development last year, the council listed providing “adequate temporary off-street parking for construction employees” as a condition of development.

In that same section, the council writes, “Failure to comply with any or all the conditions of this ordinance shall be adequate cause for revocation of permits by issuing county departments or commissions.”

The council writes that the zoning enforcement officer “shall enforce the conditions of this ordinance …”

Until last week, NCR did not provide any parking for construction workers at its site, and managers of neighboring businesses repeatedly called the St. Louis County Police Department to report construction workers’ cars parked in neighboring parking lots despite the posted “no construction parking” signs, Pyatt said.

Each day of construction, 10 workers would park their cars in the shopping center parking lot next door against the prohibition of its management, she added.

The St. Louis County Police Department confirmed that officers have gone to the site to discuss parking with the foreman.

“There was a misunderstanding with the contractor about the parking and we are working it out, so I believe they are parking on the site now,” Twinem said. “So that’s taken care of.”

NCR tried to rent parking spaces at Tori Pines Commons for construction workers, but the management company declined to lease them space, Pyatt added.

County Director of Planning Glenn Powers noted that Pyatt also parks a van on the Tori Pines Commons property, but Pyatt is a tenant of the shopping center and opened a Goddard School after-school satellite program in the building in July.

Powers said he was unaware of the construction parking issue and that the Public Works Department would be in charge of revoking any county-issued permits.

The county zoning enforcement officer, John Watson, said he was also unaware of the issue and reacts based on complaints to his department. He had not received a complaint about the construction parking at the site but promised to investigate. To Watson’s knowledge, no developer has ever had problems complying with the construction parking requirement or had permits pulled due to lack of compliance.

“It hasn’t happened in the past to my knowledge, but if that’s a condition of the approval then it’s certainly a possibility,” he said. “We will have our inspectors go out and take a look at it and do what’s necessary to see that it stops.”

Pyatt also called the police on NCR construction workers when the workers set their construction equipment on her property as they were building on the NCR site and then declined to move the equipment.

“There is all of 6 inches between our two fences,” she said. “They said, ‘We can’t build it backwards,’ and I said, ‘You’re going to have to. If it’s too small (of a space) to be building it on your property, you shouldn’t be building it.'”

In June, the County Council voted 5-1, with one abstention, to approve a resolution introduced by Stenger that directed the Planning Commission to conduct another public hearing with the intent to revert the zoning of the 1.44-acre site to its original R-2 single-family residential classification.

In August, the planning panel voted 6-1 to recommend that rezoning the site of the apartments at 6050 Telegraph Road be rejected. Commissioner Bill Sneed, of Oakville, cast the lone vote to change the project’s zoning.