Sunset Hills limits use of metal and steel buildings


By Erin Achenbach, News Editor

Sunset Hills will now prohibit the use of metal and steel on buildings as well as prefabricated metal and steel buildings and pole barns in most zoning districts in the city.

The Sunset Hills Board of Aldermen unanimously passed an ordinance last week that bans the construction of metal and steel buildings and structures, including the use of metal paneling or cladding as part of the exterior, in all zoning districts, with the exception of the Planned Development – Light Industrial district.

The language still allows for the use of metal as part of the roof, or for architectural or accent elements, as long as metal or steel is not the primary feature and it fits in with the appearance of the surrounding area.

The ordinance came about after an inquiry into the city’s zoning code about the ability to construct predominantly metal buildings in commercial areas.

Figge’s Produce, which has property at 3825 S. Lindbergh Blvd., had submitted a petition in March to the city’s Board of Adjustment for John Figge to construct a permanent commercial building for a retail store at the property. The site is zoned C-1 commercial and the retail use is a permitted use, therefore it did not appear before the aldermen or the Planning and Zoning  Commission.

Figge’s proposed building is constructed of steel. Some aldermen expressed their distaste for the steel structure during a different discussion about a separate proposal from Figge at a meeting in April.

Before the passage of the ordinance at the meeting, the city’s zoning code did not restrict building materials used in projects in the commercial and planned zoning districts. The new ordinance will not apply retroactively to any existing metal or steel structures, or any prior approved proposals that will use predominantly metal or steel.

The language change was unanimously recommended for approval by the Planning and Zoning Commission earlier in July.

Commission member Todd Powers, an architect, said he had some concerns that a first draft of the ordinance was too vague in the first section for developers regarding the use of metal and steel in construction.

“I wonder if we ought to go directly to the heart of the matter and just prohibit what we want to prohibit. All the modern buildings in this area all have a variety of metal cladding or metal panels, ” said Powers. “It basically says no to everything. Maybe it’s a little too broad at the start.”

The commission recommended outright prohibiting pole barns and other prefabricated metal and steel buildings at the start of the ordinance to make it clear for developers.

“Make it kind of a clause in the first sentence,” said City Attorney Robert E. Jones.

“That pretty much tells me everything I need to know” as a developer, Powers said.