Shell, Petro Mart representatives clash in Sunset Hills

Aldermen vote 6-0 to amend changes in text amendment

By Mike Anthony

Representatives of an existing Shell station and a proposed Petro Mart clashed last week over a text amendment that would change zoning regulations for motor-vehicle-oriented businesses in Sunset Hills.

The proposed changes relate to the maximum number of pump islands and setback requirements for motor-vehicle-oriented businesses in a Planned-Development District.

But amendments to the proposed text amendment approved by the Board of Aldermen Oct. 9 would require two readings of the measure next month if the board decides to approve it.

Land West No. 7 is proposing a 4,500-square-foot Petro Mart convenience store with eight gas-pump islands at the 1.655-acre site of the former Bob Evans Restaurant. John King, an attorney who represents the developer, told the Board of Aldermen last month the Petro Mart would generate $50,000 to $60,000 annually in sales-tax revenue for the city.

Aldermen conducted first readings Sept. 11 of five ordinances associated with the proposal, including the text-amendment changes; a zoning change to Planned-Development-Limited Commercial from C-1 Commercial at 1430 S. Kirkwood Road, 111 Monica Drive and 126 Floralea Place; a lot consolidation for the site; a conditional-use permit for a convenience store and gas station; and a preliminary development plan.

Second readings of the measures were scheduled last week, but the developer asked they be postponed except for the text-amendment changes. In addition, Land West No. 7 withdrew its preliminary development plan, abandoning its previous proposal to install a raised median on Kirkwood Road — also called Lindbergh Boulevard — from Interstate 44 south to Watson Road and a traffic signal at the intersection of Lindbergh at Sunset Office Drive and Monica Drive.

Proposed changes in the text amendment included establishing a general guideline of 7,000 square feet for one pump island, and allowing side-yard and rear-yard setbacks in Planned-Development Districts to be determined by the Planning and Zoning Commission and approved by the Board of Aldermen. The city currently requires 75-foot side-yard and rear-yard setbacks.

Two representatives of the Circle K Shell Station at 1435 S. Kirkwood Road — across the street from the proposed Petro Mart — contended the text-amendment changes were proposed to benefit Petro Mart.

Bill Remis, an attorney with DosterUllom LLC, sent a letter that morning to City Attorney Robert E. Jones opposing the changes in the text amendment.

“… Our concerns really lead us to the conclusion that in the event the amendment’s adopted, you’ll wind up with, in fact, much looser standards determining whether or not you’re going to have pump stations and setbacks at convenience stores and it’s going to make it very, very difficult for this board to make consistent urban-planning decisions …,” he said.

Mike Powers of Circle K said Chris Kemph, president/owner of Spirit Energy LLC, which owns the Circle K Shell station, could not be present.

“… The modifications are being done to accommodate the Petro Mart proposal, and we think that Spirit Energy had to live with those requirements, those zoning ordinances when we originally built, rebuilt the facility and Petro Mart should have to do the same thing,” Powers said.

Noting all convenience stores in the city have to adhere to those requirements, Powers said, “We think the guidelines are fine the way they are. Bottom line, the text amendments allow for Petro Mart to, we consider, overdevelop the parcel. This act favors one particular user, or one particular business, over another business …”

King, who represents the Petro Mart developer, said he wanted to address some of the comments that had been made opposing the proposed text amendment.

“… I read Bill Remis’ letter today and you know what it says? We don’t want the Petro Mart because it’s too much competition. That’s exactly what that letter says … He gives all these reasons and he practices law in the city of Chesterfield, where they have what they call a planned development with the planning commission as the planners and the Board of Aldermen can change and massage or facilitate setbacks.

“The conditions that are contained in those ordinances require fences, landscaping. This is what you want to do when you have ordinances that will take care of the small pieces of ground that you have in the city, where you can vary those things as a board.

“It’s not always a hardship, which is what the proof is when you appear before a board of adjustment. But it is something that you can do where you can bring businesses in, allow the development of single-family houses and do those things, and vary the setbacks and vary the requirements and allow those developments to occur …”

In two 6-0 votes, the Board of Aldermen amended the general guideline to 7,500 square feet for one pump island and eliminated all of the setback language in the proposed text amendment, keeping intact the 75-foot setback requirement for side yards and rear yards. Ward 3 Aldermen Jan Hoffmann and Stephen Webb were absent.

Two readings of the amended ordinance will be required to adopt it, Jones said.

Before the vote was taken on eliminating the setback language, City Engineer Anne Lamitola noted Petro Mart was proposing a 40-foot setback. With the 75-foot setback requirement, the maximum variance that could be granted by the Board of Adjustment would total 48.75 feet, she said.

In a related matter, two Sunset Manor residents — Kathy Tripp and Carol Morrison — took Mayor Bill Nolan to task for comments he made in his “Mayor’s Memo” column in the city newsletter regarding opposition to the proposed Petro Mart.

Nolan wrote that opposition to Petro Mart “comes from a couple of businesses …” and “… others oppose the development and the stoplight in an attempt to recreate their ‘glory days’ of the Sunset Manor debacle …”

Morrison said, “… Actually, it wasn’t just a couple of businesses. It was almost all the businesses …”

She later said, “… I just want to say that those days were not glorious in the least when it pitted neighbor against neighbor. Tires were being slashed. The bolts on your cars were being loosened and bomb threats. And the FBI even had to come in because some people, you know, because they pitted neighbor against neighbor …

“You putting this in here about it being glory days is just horrible and I just hope that maybe the board can look over your — instead of insulting people and putting things that are actually not true here …”

Morrison and former Ward 1 Alderman Frank Hardy collected 174 signatures on a petition opposing the Petro Mart.

Citing the petition, she said to Nolan, “But when I spoke to you later, I think you were just thinking about Kathy on here. Is that correct?”

“I was speaking about you and Kathy,” Nolan said.

Morrison said, “OK. There was nothing glorious about those days. I hope we never have to go through something like that because I wouldn’t wish it on anyone.”