Sunset Hills board OKs measures to revitalize subdivision

Two ordinances designed to help revitalize the Sunset Manor subdivision recently were adopted by the Sunset Hills Board of Aldermen.

One ordinance reduces the required lot size in the city’s R-6 Single-Family Zoning District to 5,000 square feet from 6,000 square feet.

The second ordinance changes the boundaries of the city’s R-5 Single-Family Residential Zoning District, which requires 7,500-square-foot lots, to the newly adopted R-6 Single-Family Zoning District for the Sunset Manor and Windward Ridge subdivisions.

The adoption of the ordinances is designed to increase property values, allow construction to begin on empty lots and permit the building of additions to existing homes, according to city officials.

Sunset Manor has been a source of controversy in the city since 2005 when the Board of Aldermen approved the Novus’ Development Co.’s request for $42 million in tax-increment-financing, or TIF, assistance and $20 million in transportation development district, or TDD, reimbursements to help fund a shopping center at Interstate 44, Watson Road and South Lindbergh Boulevard.

The project called for razing 254 homes and several businesses.

But that project and the razing plans were killed after Novus President Jonathan Browne said his company’s lender had withdrawn funding for the shopping center.

During an April 24 discussion of the ordinance reducing the required lot size of the R-6 Single-Family Zoning District, Ward 2 Alderman Tom Hrastich, who serves as chairman of the Special Projects Committee, said, “… This is the amendment that will change the size of lots in Sunset Manor and eventually all the way up to the northeast quadrant of the area, the residential area, making the minimum lot size 5,000 square feet, coverage 60 percent and keeping the front and rear setbacks to where they were originally in Zone 6, and the side setbacks are reduced to three feet.”

The Planning and Zoning Commission had voted unanimously to recommend approval of the measure.

However, the commission recommended removing all references to attached housing from the proposal.

Of the Planning and Zoning Commission’s recommendation, Ward 1 Alderman Frank Hardy said, “… It was their opinion that the part of this ordinance, or part of this bill rather, that deals with attached housing be stricken from the bill and then that amended bill be sent to the Board of Aldermen for approval. It was their feeling that if we start to allow attached housing in this particular area that it may carry over to other areas within the city …”

However, Hardy later said that during the April 4 Planning and Zoning Commission meeting, it was noted that the proposal “applied only to the northeast quadrant of the Watson-Lindbergh intersection. So it would not apply elsewhere in the city.”

During a public hearing, three residents — Roseanne Stein, Kathy Tripp and Christina Spiegel — voiced their concerns about including attached housing in the measure reducing the required lot size in the R-6 Single-Family Zoning District.

Stein said, “… I really hope you guys do pass the zoning regulations. The only thing I’m concerned about is the (attached) housing might lead to more rentals, and I don’t really want any more rentals in my neighborhood. So I think single-family is the best way to go here …”

Tripp noted that she had attended the Planning and Zoning Commission meeting when the panel recommended eliminating the attached-housing provision of the proposal and believed that language had been removed from the proposal.

“I learned an hour ago that this was not the case. I also feel as Alderman Hrastich and I talked the night of that meeting, he was talking about building duplexes and such. Well, those work in Chicago, but I don’t think that they would work in Sunset Manor, and I also agree that they would encourage more rental. And we’re sitting now with 48 percent rental and nothing’s happening yet. So I just have a problem with looking out my front door and seeing duplexes on the three plots of ground that Jonathan Browne owns, and I just don’t want to see that,” she said.

“Over the past month or so since the Planning and Zoning (Commission) meeting, as anyone can imagine I get billions of phone calls every day and I have just been talking up this zoning and talking it up. It’s a great thing for Sunset Manor and now I find out that I’ve been talking up attached housing and I didn’t know that …,” Tripp added.

Hrastich later said he believed “carefully controlled attaching housing would also bring higher-priced buildings into the area and less likely that someone would want to buy them out. That probably was the reason why I was in favor of it.”

Ward 3 Alderman Lynn Flowers later said, “Yeah, I’m not too crazy about attached housing. When I was trying to write some rules on garages, which we’ll talk about later, I think the city attorney and I had quite an argument about attached housing. And little did I know that we do have attached housing here in Sunset Hills — right across the street (from City Hall) … and right at the golf course across from the country club. On the corner there, there’s a gated community that’s first class and that’s all attached housing.

“So attached housing can be duplexes or it could be a really nice place — condos and that sort of thing. So I don’t know if I’d want them in my neighborhood or not. I’m not crazy about that idea, but it does have its place …,” he added.

After further discussion, the board adopted the ordinance reducing the required lot size in the city’s R-6 Single-Family Zoning District, including the provision allowing attached housing.

The two measures that were approved by the board came at the request of the consulting firm Development Strategies, which was hired by the city in December to analyze a Sunset Manor condition assessment that had been performed in the summer of 2006 by John Hoal of H3 Studios.

Reducing the city’s square-footage requirement to 5,000 square feet will bring many Sunset Manor homes that had not been in compliance with the previous R-6 Single-Family Zoning District requirement.