Sunset Hills panel starts crafting recommendation

New homes next to old ones a concern, Borzillo tells panel.

By EVAN YOUNG

The Sunset Hills Residential Recovery Task Force plans to present its findings next month regarding the residential redevelopment of Court Drive and West Watson Road west of South Lindbergh Boulevard.

Task force members have not yet agreed on a redevelopment solution for the area. However, after hearing input from two developers, they voted last week to have a presentation ready for the Sept. 7 Planning and Zoning Commission meeting.

The task force was scheduled to meet again Wednesday afternoon — after the Call went to press — to start crafting a recommendation.

Mike Borzillo, president of general contractor A.J. Borzillo Inc., met with task force members for more than an hour last week to discuss the possible residential redevelopment of the area, which was devastated by the New Year’s Eve tornado that swept through the city.

The roughly 10-acre site currently is zoned R-2 single-family residential with a 20,000-square-foot minimum lot size.

Since their first official meeting June 21, task force members have been discussing the concept of attached villas with some single-family detached homes for the site, similar to the nearby Courtyards of Sunset Hills.

Task force members recently met with Courtyards developer Mike Kuehnle of Kuehnle Construction, who said a similar concept “could work” for the tornado-damaged area. Like Kuehnle, Borzillo last week agreed the idea was “feasible.” He said he’d be willing to work with the city, property owners and even other developers on a residential redevelopment plan.

Borzillo did, however, express concern about building new homes next to ones that are decades old.

“That would concern me as a builder,” Borzillo said. “If I come in there and I’m gambling $4 million on this project, and I’m trying to sell houses, brand new units that are sitting next to houses that are 50 years — not to say that I wouldn’t want do it, but it would really make me think twice about it.”

He later added, “One other thing that you need to take into consideration, and this applies to new home sales whether it’s villas or anything, is when somebody comes to buy this unit, whether it’s me or any builder, what they’re going to do is make it contingent on selling their house and when the numbers come back and they’re taking a big loss on their house, it’s going to make it hard to sell.

“I’ve got a 13-lot subdivision in Wildwood, I haven’t had a sale there in three years. You can’t give this stuff away. The last house I sold there I sold way below my cost just to get rid of it … That’s the way the market is, and it’s not just me, it’s everybody. So that needs to be taken into consideration.

“… (A)ny builder is going to be nervous about taking something on. You get it started, and what happens if he goes under?” Borzillo continued. “You’re going to have this project half done sitting there, and the bank’s going to take it back and then you’re going to be trying to find somebody else to take it over.

“It’s just something to think about.”

Mayor Bill Nolan established the task force after the Planning and Zoning Commission voted June 1 to reject an amendment to change Sunset Hills’ comprehensive plan to provide for commercial and attached-unit residential uses of the area.

The proposed amendment to the comprehensive plan would have encompassed all property on Court Drive not already designated for commercial use, the first six properties along the north side of West Watson Road west of South Lindbergh Blvd. and 3851 and 3863 S. Lindbergh Blvd.

Nolan has said no eminent domain or tax-increment financing will be involved in the redevelopment of the area while the task force has agreed that commercial development is off the table.