By Erin Achenbach
Webster Groves Subaru may be moving to Sunset Hills. The dealership could relocate to the former Johnny Mac’s Sporting Goods store at 10100 Watson Road after the Sunset Hills Planning and Zoning Commission voted to approve recommending to the Board of Aldermen a conditional-use permit for the dealership.
The Jim Keras Automotive Group, which owns Webster Groves Subaru and multiple car dealerships in Memphis, Tennessee, also submitted a petition to the commission to consolidate Johnny Mac’s with the lot next door, the former Smugala’s Pizza, into a single 5.5-acre lot. Smugala’s will be demolished and Johnny Mac’s will be renovated as the office space, showroom and maintenance garage, said Mark Harriman, project manager for BFA Inc., the company designing the dealership.
The properties are located in the Watson commercial corridor next to Maebern Terrace, a residential street to the south.
The petitioner will have to seek variances from the Board of Adjustment for existing conditions. The building sits 25 feet from the front property line, which does not meet the required setback of 30 feet. The parking lot does not meet setback requirements, and the drive aisle is also 2 feet too narrow for the 24-foot width requirement.
Additionally, the existing sidewalk will have to be brought up to current Americans with Disabilities Act requirements, and some landscaping along Watson Road will require written authorization from the Missouri Department of Transportation for upkeep since it is in the MoDOT right of way. The property will also require a new address from St. Louis County due to the lot consolidation.
The commission also requested that the petitioner move the current sidewalk farther off Watson Road to allow for more green space between pedestrians and the main roadway. Crestwood, whose city line begins immediately east of Johnny Mac’s, has a 20-foot setback between the roadway and sidewalk. But Sunset Hills Public Works Director Bryson Baker said a setback of 5 feet would be sufficient.
“Crestwood’s sidewalk is 20 feet from the road. That is way more than normal,” said Baker. “I don’t think that much is needed. Five feet is great and if we can get more, we can get more if they work it in.”
The petitioner plans to construct a 6-foot sight-proof fence toward the back property line to provide privacy between the business and Maebern Terrace. There is currently an older, existing fence in place, which has become overgrown with brush. The petitioner plans to keep the existing fence in place and construct the new fence further off the back property line.
Maebern Terrace resident Margie Stevenson had concerns that the 25-foot light poles the dealership planned to use would come into her backyard. Harriman said that would not be the case.
“You’ll see light over there like you’re looking at the moonlight. You should not have any light going onto your property,” said Harriman. “You won’t be able to go out and read something. You might see a glow, but you’d never be able to read….”
According to a photometric diagram shown by Harriman, there would still be an additional 40 feet to the back of the property line from where the projected light leak from the light poles would end.
Stevenson also worried about noise, especially from the maintenance garage behind the building, closest to Maebern Terrace.
“We will not have any pagers. You won’t hear anything,” said owner Jay Keras, adding that all maintenance is done inside the building with the garage doors closed.
The dealership will be open Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays from 9 a.m to 9 p.m., and Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Editor’s note: This article has been updated to reflect the correct name of the neighbor of the proposed dealership.