Streets not likely to be transferred to businesses in Green Park Commerce Center

Green Park founder proposes annexation south of Lindbergh Boulevard

By BURKE WASSON

A Green Park alderman’s request to consider allowing Green Park Commerce Center businesses to take ownership of streets from the city is not likely to occur, according to City Attorney Paul Rost.

In March, Commerce Center business owners offered to pay for maintenance of the business park’s streets to offset the need for revenue that could be collected through any business-license fees in Green Park.

With no such fee yet imposed on businesses, Ward 3 Alderman Mark Hayden last week proposed that city officials study allowing those businesses “to keep their streets to themselves.”

But Rost said at last week’s Board of Aldermen meeting that because the business park property owners would have to unanimously agree to fund that street maintenance, he does not believe such a takeover will occur.

“Usually, when you vacate your streets you have to say that they were a surplus and no longer needed, which isn’t really necessarily true over there,” Rost said. “… The bigger problem is that park is built out mostly. The lots are owned by numerous different people … It would take a hundred percent of the people out there to agree to do that for them to modify it and say that they’re now going to have an assessment to pay for these streets from here on out. And I think you could probably guess that you’re not going to get a hundred percent of the people out there to agree to do that. Somebody’s going to say no.”

When Commerce Center businesses proposed taking over those streets earlier this year, city officials at that time estimated it would cost more than $1.1 million for the city to replace all streets within the business park. The proposal was tailored toward eliminating the financial need for the city to establish a business license.

While officials conducted several meetings this year to discuss business licenses, aldermen have yet to take any action.

Ward 2 Alderman Tim Thuston, who chaired the committee to study business licenses, recommended in May that because of the ambiguous nature and variety of business-license structures throughout St. Louis County, he would prefer an administrative fee rather than licenses.

During a June work session, aldermen discussed various ways to establish an administrative fee. Rost estimated at the work session that the annual fee for businesses would be roughly $30 to $50 based on the manpower it would take to collect those fees and compile a directory.

Mayor Tony Konopka indicated in June that some industrial businesses in the Commerce Center would be willing to pay an annual fee of $200 to $250.

With no fee or business license yet in sight, Hayden last week suggested that city officials study Commerce Center businesses’ previous request.

“Even if at that point it was just a bluff to try to get us to go away … I think that would be irresponsible not to look into it,” Hayden said.

“Letting them keep the streets might be a good short term,” Konopka said. “But it’s not a good long-term thing for the city …”

“I didn’t hear anything negative about giving the streets back to them, even if they do gate them,” Hayden said. “Our residents don’t use those streets except for driver’s ed.”

“But Ashley (Furniture) is going to put business back there where people will be coming to pick up property,” Ward 1 Alderman Anthony Pousosa said.

Rost continued, “You lose control over the park. And why have them in the city if they’re just going to be gated and blocked off and they don’t want anything to do with you? I think the two have to work together.

“That is a nice business park. It’s really something where you want them to be known as the Green Park Commerce Center and not South County Commerce Center.”

Board President Fred Baras of Ward 3 agreed, saying, “I think we should be very careful on that because if we lose control of the streets, they could put whatever business they want in there without the city’s knowledge.”

With respect to the city’s delay on whether to establish an administrative fee or business license, Pousosa reiterated that he supports establishing some measure.

“Even if by a long shot the streets are taken over by the Commerce Center, we still need a business license of some sort for our city,” he said. “And that shouldn’t be the main reason for looking at giving them streets.”

Rost added that allowing the Commerce Center to own those streets goes against the organizational structure of the city.

“It’s also one step away from them doing what they also talked about doing, which is asking you to de-annex them from the city,” Rost said. “That would be a huge mistake to let that part get out of the city.”

While Rost was concerned about the possibility of de-annexation, former Alderman Fred Hoehn last week asked the board to consider annexing part of unincorporated south county on the south side of Lindbergh Boulevard. Hoehn led the effort to incorporate Green Park in 1995.

“The city should pursue annexation south of Lindbergh,” Hoehn said. “… Generally, the area is (Highway) 21, (Interstate) 270, (Interstate) 55 and South Lindbergh. But that needs to be discussed. Both you and the citizens on the other side of Lindbergh should be interested in better regulations for this corridor. As this corridor goes, so goes our city. The city has to address that situation. You’re addressing it to the best of your ability on one side. But the county will address it on the other side. And that will not be cohesive, especially for the city.

“The residents south of the city surely would be interested … Green Park has free trash pickup. Green Park is replacing their streets in entirety. If you go on the other side, the county is patching. They’re doing slab replacement. And what you’ve got is a complete different look. This looks clean and new. That doesn’t…

“The city was designed using a strong base — income and balance. I know because I did it. If the people on the south joined the city, it would be a powerful benefit to both groups. With tough times ahead, expect even less services from St. Louis County. And those people will receive the benefit of less services … If these two areas were joined, you would have a real powerhouse in south county to benefit all the people even more than they’re being benefited now … I’m hoping for strong leadership. And I’m hoping I’m not addressing seven dwarves tonight.”

Konopka later said while annexation always is a possibility, city officials first need to focus on addressing matters in their own city.

“I just think it’s something that we may want to look at further down the road,” Konopka said. “But I don’t think it’s a priority right now.”