Suntrup Volkswagen could see an expansion, pending a lighting plan

Suntrup is one of the city’s ‘best’ and plans to expand

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Photo by Erin Achenbach

Suntrup Volkswagen, 6000 S. Lindbergh Blvd., Friday, Jan. 22, 2021.

By Erin Achenbach, Staff Reporter

The Suntrup Volkswagen dealership on Lindbergh Boulevard could expand after the Green Park Board of Aldermen unanimously approved a final development plan Sept. 21 for two additions, pending a lighting plan that the dealership has still not submitted as of this week.

The dealership at 6014 S. Lindbergh Blvd. is part of the Suntrup Automotive Group that has a number of dealerships in Green Park on that stretch of Lindbergh. But the final approval is contingent on the petitioner submitting a photometric diagram of the proposed lights on the lots, which border residential property to the north.

Aldermen unanimously passed a resolution 6-0 on voice vote Aug. 17 approving the preliminary development plan for the site, with no discussion. The preliminary plan was unanimously recommended by the Planning and Zoning Commission Aug. 4, followed by that panel’s recommendation of the final plan in September.

The recommendations and approvals are contingent on the lighting diagram, landscaping plan and conceptual approval by the Metropolitan St. Louis Sewer District.

The rear of the property sits next to Ambush Drive, while the east side of the property runs along Arrowsmith Lane.

“For security and public safety, we’re not as concerned along Lindbergh as we would be along the residential areas in the back or adjoining properties where they don’t want that excessive lighting on their property,” said City Engineer Derrick Madej.

City code requires that any lighting not exceed half a “candle power” or luminous intensity at a property line, particularly those that adjoin residential areas. Some members of the planning panel were concerned that the lighting proposed by the dealership could exceed that, which would require reflectors to be installed to bring the lighting intensity into compliance.

However, by the Sept. 21 board meeting, the requested photometric diagrams still were not provided.

“From what I’ve observed, we’ve done everything to get this moving forward. Suntrup is one of our best businesses and corporate citizens here in the city. I don’t know if there is a lack of compliance from the engineering firm to get what we need. It’s not a lot we’re asking, but we’re not getting what we need so they can proceed with the work they need to do,” said Mayor Tim Thuston. “What’s needed? We can’t get anything recorded (with the county) until you submit a photometric plan for the backlighting that faces our citizens’ homes.”

Nick Ellis, an engineer with firm BEX Construction Services, said that the delay could be due in part to the architect not understanding the urgency of the project.

“This is kind of more of an architect issue, which is on the owner. … The architect wasn’t following or sensing the urgency of the issue,” said Ellis. “The rear property line is fairly dark … It may seem bright over there, but there’s a difference between actual light transmission in that area and just glare off of other objects … There’s no measurable light over there.”

“We agree, but we just need light readings at all property lines so that the board can make an informed decision. … If you take photometric readings at the property lines and give us those reports, that should satisfy all of our queries,” replied City Administrator James Mello.

Aldermen took City Attorney Paul Rost’s suggestion that the board approve on contingency that the ordinance would not be signed without the photometric readings.

“If we don’t have it by the next meeting, it’ll be on the agenda again for the board to ask why we’re still not getting what we need,” added Rost.

“We’ll give you this approval on the ordinance tonight but if we don’t get this stuff, the mayor’s not going to sign it, we’re not going to send it to St. Louis County,” said Ward 1 Alderman Michael Broughton.