Sunset Hills cluster homes up for debate

By Erin Achenbach
Staff Reporter
eachenbach@callnewspapers.com

A development of cluster homes in Sunset Hills is being challenged by disgruntled residents after a lengthy public hearing at the Board of Aldermen meeting this month.

Nearly 20 residents spoke out Dec. 11 against the proposed 5-acre development of 12 villas at 4055 S. Lindbergh Blvd., 9312 Lincoln Drive and 9255 Robyn Road.

A final vote on the project will be taken next month, since aldermen only conducted a first reading of the proposal.

Changes would have to be made to the city’s current zoning laws to accommodate the proposal submitted by Fischer & Frichtel Custom Homes LLC. The property is currently zoned for R-2 Residential with a minimum 20,000-square-foot lot size; the proposal would require the zoning be changed to PD-RC Planned Development-Residential/Cluster Homes.

The property is the site of the Krueger family house owned by the owners of Wehrenberg Theatres. Ward 3 Alderman Kurt Krueger said during the meeting that he is unrelated to the family.

The developer’s attorney, Ed Griesedieck, noted that the PD-RC zoning category allows for up to 18 homes. He called the villas “low density” and “luxury homes… single-family, all detached at a price point that compares very favorably with the other homes in the area.”

The homes would be marketed to empty nesters since they would be maintenance-free with included landscaping.

“This is a great use of very unique and difficult tract,” said Griesedieck. “It is surrounded by not one, not two, not three but four different roads…It’s a difficult site to try and develop, and your PD-RC allows you and it allows us flexibility to take into consideration that this is a unique site and to do things that would make sense for this site.”

The villas would be between 1,600 to 2,200 square feet and one to 1.5 stories. They will be two-car garage homes, with a three-car garage option.

In addition to changing the zoning laws for the property, the developer is also seeking to reduce the minimum lot size and the amount of brick required on homes.

Not all aldermen were on board with the proposal. Ward 1 Alderman Dee Baebler asked if it would be possible to keep the current zoning on the property: “What would it take to keep this at an R-2 zoning? How many homes?”

“It would be 11 homes before you remove the areas for improvements, so it would probably be closer to 10,” replied City Engineer/Public Works Director Bryson Baker.

However, if the zoning is kept at R-2, the development would look entirely different than Fischer’s proposal and would not account for the fact that 11 driveways would then have to open onto Lincoln Drive, Griesedieck said.

Ward 2 Alderman Steve Bersche floated the idea of preserving the current house that sits on the property.

“Sunset Hills does have a lot of diversity of houses…Has anyone thought about maybe preserving this 6,758-square-foot house that’s on the property? It’s architecturally significant, it’s got some history behind it. It was owned by one of the hottest movie theatres in the Midwest,” said Bersche. “Has anyone thought about exploring that option?”

Some residents were harsher.

“I appeal to your sense of fairness to the current Sunset Hills residents and ask you to vote ‘no’ on this proposal,” Jeanine Rainey, who lives on Country Club Green off Robyn Road, said to the board. When she and her husband first bought their property in Sunset Hills, “we felt assured that our elected officials would protect our interests and preserve the integrity of our community. It would be a betrayal of that trust for you to rezone and to approve this cluster home development.”

Alderman Krueger and resident Esther Gier, who lives on Sappington Estates Drive off  Robyn Road, shared a heated exchange at one point during Gier’s comment, when she hinted that Krueger may have an outside interest in getting the property developed due to the property being the site of the Krueger family house.

“I do hope the aldermen do listen, especially Kurt. Most of your constituents are obviously opposed to this, and even though you might have a vested interest in this…” Gier said, before Krueger cut her off.

“Stop right there. I do not have a vested interest, and I’m not related by blood or marriage, and the fact that that has come up so many times in conversation and I’ve stated it over and over,” said Krueger. “That you bring it up now is embarrassing for you.”

“Well, I do hope you listen to your constituents because we all are very much opposed,” replied Gier.