In the end, the St. Clair Board of Aldermen trusted members of its planning and zoning commission regarding conditions placed on a permit for a recycling center to operate on the west side of the city.
The aldermen on Monday first conducted a public hearing and then during its regular meeting discussed and approved the CUP for Poor Boyz Recycling, which is moving its operations from downtown to newly annexed land at 685 W. Gravois Ave.
The permit was approved without changes, despite more complaints from business owners James Woods and Seth Crocker about the 6-foot sight-proof fence they will have to build around the section of the 3-acre property where they will store materials outdoors.
Woods and Crocker continually have complained about having to construct and pay for the fence, including last week during a lengthy planning and zoning commission meeting where the CUP terms were determined and passed along to the aldermen.
Monday’s CUP vote was unanimous.
“We’ve been working on this for a couple of months,” said Ward 2 Alderman Travis Dierker, who also is a member of the planning and zoning board. “We’ve had lengthy discussions with Poor Boyz, and we felt when we left our meeting (on May 13) we were comfortable on what we decided.”
The two sticking points debated by Woods and Crocker are the sight-proof fence as well as having to provide a surety bond in case they go out of business and force the city to clean up the site afterward.
The surety bond was not mentioned on Monday.
Woods and Crocker had submitted a letter to the aldermen prior to the meeting requesting a change to the permit conditions. They wanted to only have to build a partial fence and not have to enclose the entire east side of the property as required in the CUP and that they be allowed two years to complete it.
“As far as their request, I feel like we already have a visual issue coming into town from the east,” Mayor Ron Blum said. “I hate to see us have a visual issue coming into town from the west.”
Dierker said the same discussion took place and the same complaints were heard during the planning and zoning meeting.
“We discussed fencing for probably an hour and a half before we came to the decision we did,” he said.
Blum also reminded the aldermen that when the planning and zoning board conducted its public hearing last month, some neighbors were concerned about the visual impact of the business relocating to the area.
“I have to say I agree with these people,” Blum said.
Ward 1 Alderman Zach Fuchs then said he agreed with Blum regarding the visual impact and the fence.
“Coming into town from that direction, we need to have a visual block,” Fuchs said. “I believe we have to stick with what planning and zoning decided.”
“When people come into town, we don’t want their first image to be recyclable materials,” Blum said. “In my opinion, this distracts people from wanting to stop here.”
During the regular board meeting, there was no discussion before the ordinance was approved. It lists the 21 conditions for Poor Boyz, including the fencing requirement and the $10,000 surety bond.
The fencing stipulation follows already established city code.
“The lot to the east of the primary building shall be designated for open storage purposes and shall have a minimum of a 6-foot-tall fence designed to fully obscure and screen the view of the stored material and constructed of masonry, vinyl or wood,” the ordinance reads. “Such fence shall fully enclose the entire east lot and shall be erected and maintained according to city ordinances.”
In addition, the current chain-link and barbed-wire fence on the site needs to be removed and the new fence constructed prior to utilizing the property for open storage.
That point again brought complaints from Crocker and Woods during the public comment period of the regular meeting.
They asked why decorative metal could not be used for the fence.
City Inspector Jeremy Crowe, who put together the Poor Boyz CUP, said the current city ordinance for fencing separation between commercial and residential areas allows masonry, vinyl or wood only.
Woods and Crocker said that during last week’s planning and zoning meeting, the metal fencing was discussed as an option.
Planning board Chairman Myrna Turner, who attended Monday’s aldermen meeting, agreed with that, but said, “We said they could use wood, vinyl or masonry and possibly metal, depending on what the ordinance says.”
It was brought up that metal fencing also can be an eyesore.
Earlier, Turner had said that, “We have bent over backward to help these guys. We felt like we have given them a lot. We want them to succeed, but we have to do what is best for the city.”
Turner had made a similar comment during the planning meeting the week before.
When the fencing complaints continued, Blum said he believes the city should follow the planners’ recommendation but that Poor Boyz could apply for a fencing variance through the city’s board of adjustment.
Woods and Crocker said they did not know what a variance was. After it was explained, the men said they would consider that option.
Currently, Poor Boyz is located near the intersection of South Main Street and East Springfield Road. The Gravois Avenue land currently is owned by Jerry Landing and is next to the St. Clair Motel.