UPDATED: Mehlville board delays property sale to Aldi

Contract states property sale contingent on OK of zoning

By Gloria Lloyd

Oakville residents have asked for an Aldi on Telegraph Road for years, and they may get their wish if the Mehlville School District sells property next to two of its schools to the grocery store chain.

The Board of Education is set to consider a contract in open session when it meets tonight — Thursday, June 8 — to sell roughly 1.28 acres to Aldi at 5950 Telegraph Road, off the entrance to Oakville Middle School and Wohlwend Elementary. The board will meet at 6:30 p.m. at the Mehlville High School Library, 3200 Lemay Ferry Road.

The purchase price is $815,000, according to the contract, which district officials publicly posted in advance of the meeting.

The 1.28 acres are part of the larger 26-acre property the district owns at the site of the two schools.

The school district property has the same address as Oakville Middle and is zoned R-2 residential, according to its property listing.

As part of the agreement, the company will widen the driveway to OMS and Wohlwend to add a left turn lane into Aldi, according to Superintendent Chris Gaines.

The grocery store is also proposing a curb cut directly onto Telegraph that is right in/right out-only, which could ease traffic through the schools’ driveway.

The superintendent doesn’t believe shoppers will affect morning traffic into the schools since Aldi does not open until 9 a.m.

“The afternoon could be an issue, but I think Aldi’s shoppers will do that once and then they’ll go, ‘I’m not coming at this time to the grocery store again,'” Gaines said.

The grocery store will also be convenient for parents who can stop at the grocery store after picking their child up from school, he noted.

The property and an adjoining residential site would have to go through the county zoning process to be zoned commercial for a grocery store.

Sixth District County Councilman Ernie Trakas, R-Oakville, eventually would have to introduce legislation for the zoning to be approved by the County Council.

The property sale is contingent on zoning approval.

Trakas’ wife, former Mehlville board member Lori, served on the board during the latest round of negotiations between the district and Aldi, started at least eight years ago, if not longer.

School districts have an interest in growth and economic development in the areas they serve, Gaines said.

When he was superintendent in Wright City, the board there paid every year to serve as a member of the Warren County Economic Development Council because “the board felt that economic development was good for the region, and that meant new businesses who employed people coming in,” he said.

Although some former board members have been of the opinion that the district should never sell school property so that schools can be built in the future, Gaines said he doesn’t foresee any new construction on the horizon for Mehlville other than some possible enhancements to existing schools.

After the original idea for the Aldi’s was dropped nearly a decade ago, the company approached Gaines in the fall of 2015 to see if the district was interested in selling its property. Board members have been on board with the process since that time, but has never officially voted on the property until the vote tonight, Gaines said.

Although the school district’s attorney told Gaines that the vote on the contract could be in closed session, Gaines said he wanted the vote to be open and accessible to the public.

“They’re like, ‘You know you can do this in closed,’ and I’m like well, we’re not going to. We’re going to do this right out in front of everybody,” Gaines said. “Why not? This is kind of a big deal. I just want to put it out there so everybody can see the contract.”

In a separate matter tonight, board members are scheduled to discuss the district’s preliminary budget for the 2017-2018 school year.

Final approval of the district’s 2017-2018 budget is scheduled to be considered by the board when it meets at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, June 29.