Trakas introduces rezoning measure; still undecided on McManus proposal

GOP committeewoman tells council she opposes move

Ernie Trakas

Photo by Clark Woolsey

Ernie Trakas

By Mike Anthony

Sixth District County Councilman Ernie Trakas, R-Oakville, last week introduced legislation that would permit a construction firm to move to the former Tee Time Family Fun Center, but he remains undecided about whether he will support it.

McManus Construction Co. owner Rob McManus is seeking to move his business from 4100 Seibert Ave. in Affton to the former Tee Time property at 4631 Lemay Ferry Road, next to Mattis Road and Interstate 55, that he purchased earlier this year.

The county Planning Commission voted unanimously to recommend approval of the Affton resident and business owner’s proposal to rezone the property from an amusement park to amended C-8 commercial zoning.

But since the commission’s recommendation arrived at the County Council in late March, Trakas declined to introduce legislation to approve the zoning until he announced May 2 that he would introduce a measure at the May 9 council meeting.

Trakas told the Call that he met May 8 with McManus and his attorney and also visited the former Tee Time site. But he remains undecided about whether he will support the rezoning.

“At this point, I remain undecided. I’ve talked with Mr. McManus and his attorneys about the option, if you will, of a Committee of the Whole where they would be able to have essentially the council to themselves, as opposed to just another item on the agenda. And then they could focus on the use, and they’re going to get back to me on that,” Trakas said. “If that’s an option that they’re interested in, I’m happy to make that available to them.”

A Committee of the Whole meeting would give council members the opportunity to query McManus directly, “as opposed to just having the public-comment section (of the meeting),” he said.

“I do want them to feel like they got a full and fair hearing, and I just suggested to them that the Committee of the Whole was an option that might be suitable,” Trakas said.

The legislation introduced by Trakas last week would approve McManus’ application and preliminary plans for the amended development in the C-8 Planned Commercial District for the 3.2-acre site.

“The uses allowed in this C-8 Planned Commercial District shall be the sale, storage and repair of snow-removal equipment and a construction company with office use,” the measure states. “Outdoor storage associated with these uses shall be permitted.”

At recent County Council meetings, speakers supporting McManus’ relocation to the former Tee Time site have dominated the public-comment period, and last week was no exception, as many of those who addressed the council previously returned to again express their support for the rezoning.

But two Concord residents, John Struckhoff and Casilda “Chris” Struckhoff, voiced their opposition to McManus’ proposal.

Chris Struckhoff serves as the Concord Township Republican committeewoman.

“I take exception to the personal attacks against Ernie Trakas. He’s a good man doing his job as a councilman, and I’m quite proud of him,” John Struckhoff said. “McManus Construction Co., there must be a problem if they’re having trouble getting zoning. I think they’ve gone through this once or twice at that property, and the property itself, if you’ve looked at it, the access road is fairly small if you’re bringing snow plows and so on in there, I think that’s going to cause a little problem there on Lemay Ferry.

“Fenix Construction Co., if you drive by there, it’s not very appealing and I’ve been involved in some construction. I think that doesn’t really lend itself to an area where you have South County mall, and also you have Sam’s and other businesses there.”

John Struckhoff said his daughter lives in the area and doesn’t welcome McManus relocating to the former Tee Time location.

Chris Struckhoff noted the county Planning Commission in December voted to recommend denial of McManus’ request to rezone the former Tee Time to M-1 Industrial District from C-8 Planned Commercial District.

“However, on Feb. 1, he sold his property at Seibert anyway,” she said. “Thirteen days later, there was a hearing held and he attempted to get the Lemay Ferry property rezoned to C-7 General Extensive Commercial District. Then on March 6, the decision was made to zone the Lemay Ferry property to amended C-8. Keep in mind, C-8 is not industrial zoning.

“Without the zoning he was after, on March 9 McManus purchased the property on Lemay Ferry without the approval of the County Council nor with a contingency on the sales contract. This is not the normal — or it doesn’t seem to me — to be the normal way a businessman would do this. Why would a business owner sell his business location before he had another property zoned properly? …” she added.

Chris Struckhoff also said, “I know and I hear that Mr. McManus may be a good man, but I feel his wants and needs do not supersede what is the best for the residents of District 6 …”

McManus told the County Council that he is grateful for the outpouring of support for relocating his business, but that the issue is not about him, but his employees and the community.

“… I’m in this phase of relocating not for Rob, but for my employees and our community. Last week, you heard most of the speakers mention Rob. It’s not about Rob. Rob’s just an ordinary guy,” he said. “For customers to say that they feel safe, give us the key to their home to go in their home and work while they’re away, speaks for the company and my employees, not Rob.

“For neighbors to speak of how we have improved the property at our existing location speaks about our employees. They care about the place where they work. For Brian Greene, a 20-year employee who’s not a public speaker, to come up and speak about us giving him time off speaks not about Rob, but the rest of the employees pitching in, working harder, longer days and meeting the deadlines when a co-worker needs to take off for his son.”

He continued, “Why? Because we’re all family. McManus Construction is a family business and we treat our employees as family. I am grateful for the community support of our relocation. I was taken by surprise last week at the support from so many people. You heard from new neighbors, customers, existing neighbors, school districts, just ordinary community supporters about us relocating …”