The Franklin County Board of Zoning Adjustment upheld a conditional use permit that would allow a concrete facility in Gray Summit.
Board Chairmen Gordon Upchurch and Carl Ridder voted in favor of the permit. Kat Shaw, Andy Geisert and Josh Green voted against the permit.
Because four votes were needed to overturn the original decision, the appeal was denied by the 2-3 vote.
Kelly Brothers, acting as a spokesperson for the neighbors opposing the plant, called the meeting confusing and said her group was disappointed in the outcome.
“We’re not very happy with it and we will be considering an appeal,” Brothers said.
Brothers’ attorney, Kathleen Henry with Great Rivers Environmental Law Center, said a decision to appeal will come in the next 30 days.
Tuesday’s ruling upholds the CUP Roger Landvatter received in March. Landvatter applied for a conditional use permit to open a Landvatter Ready Mix facility at Old Route 66/West Osage Street across the street from the MoDOT facility near Pacific. Landvatter has plants in both Kirkwood and St. Charles.
The Franklin County Planning and Zoning Commission granted the CUP with a narrow 6-4 vote March 18.
Residents living along Old Gray Summit Road south of the proposed site opposed the plant initially. In June, Brothers teamed up with the Great Rivers Environmental Law Center to appeal the decision.
The appeal hearing took place Tuesday at the county’s government center in Union, however, the proceedings were nearly delayed a month.
Because two powerpoint presentations weren’t properly submitted as evidence, both sides discussed moving the meeting to August in order to properly review the material.
A new county policy requires all powerpoint presentations to be submitted ahead of time so the information can be distributed to all parties prior to the meeting. Upchurch said the board hadn’t adopted this policy yet, but in the interest of fairness, wanted both sides to have a chance to review all material that was to be presented.
Both Henry and Cameron Luken of Wunderlich Surveying and Engineering, representing Landvatter, said they had no issues with a continuance until the next meeting.
A motion was made to table the issue until the Aug. 26 meeting; however, at the last minute, both sides agreed to present the powerpoints without prior review.
Show Goes On
With the powerpoint issue settled, the appeal hearing began.
The opposition side presented many of the same arguments from earlier meetings. Brothers said residents were worried about noise, dust, traffic problems along Osage Street and potential damage to Shaw’s Nature Reserve.
Brothers provided pictures of Landvatter’s Kirkwood facility to show dust on the road and across the street. She said the facility was loud and compared the noise to the sound of a train constantly passing by the site.
Additionally, Brothers said she found that property values decreased the closer the property was to Landvatter’s Kirkwood plant.
“Property values decrease by about $10 a square foot the closer you get to the plant,” Brothers said. “If our houses each lose $10 a square foot, that could be an average loss of $12,000 per household, using an estimated 1,200 square feet per house.”
Brothers also provided letters from other concrete plant owners in the area saying Landvatter would struggle to fill the 25 jobs he promised to provide because of a lack of work in the area.
“I’m not opposed to the plant, just not in my backyard,” Brothers said.
After Brothers’ presentation, three of her fellow neighbors shared why they didn’t want the plant in their backyard. Janelle Vondera said she has sewage problems that would only be made worse by another facility using the sewer service.
Dino Selimovic, a law student working with the Great Rivers Environmental Law Center, said an appeal should be granted because Landvatter has a history of issues with the Missouri Department of Natural Resources.
Selimovic presented numerous citations Landvatter’s other facilities have received from DNR. The citations were for violations of the clean water law.
Selimovic said the repeated citations, and the fact the numbers stayed the same from year to year, showed a pattern from Landvatter.
The final witness for the opposition was Dr. Jason Knouft, an associate professor at Saint Louis University. Knouft said he believed the water run off from the facility would negatively impact Brush Creek which could further contaminate the Meramec River.
Knouft said the water would run off into Shaws Nature Reserve, however, after being questioned by Upchruch, couldn’t show exactly where on a map.
Knouft later clarified the water would run into Brush Creek, which could cause issue to Shaws.
Lueken addressed several of the issues. He pointed out the residents worried about the noise live near an active railroad that has close to 70 trains per day.
He said the site plans have the building as far away from the homes as possible and will have the trucks loading close to Osage Street to limit noise.
Lueken said a tree buffer included in the CUP would act as a buffer.
Upchurch asked about the second tract and what would be done with the land south of the proposed site and closest to the neighbors. Roger Landvatter said the land was practically impossible to develop and would remain as a buffer. He said he had no plans for it at this time.
Any plans Landvatter makes to the second tract would require another CUP, unless it was a permitted use under the community development zoning district.
Lueken said, with the homes located to the south and southeast of the proposed site, dust would be a minimal issue.
“If a fugitive dust particle got loose, the prevailing winds are going to carry it what way?” Lueken said. “I’ll let you guys make your own decision about that, you all live in this county so you know which way the wind blows most of the time.”
Lueken said the traffic wouldn’t be an issue because Osage Street doesn’t get a significant amount of traffic. He said Highway 47 connecting Washington and Union is constructed in a similar way with 12-foot lanes and 8-foot shoulders and has four times the amount of traffic.
Lueken said Landvatter wouldn’t deny having issues with DNR in the past. He said as an older business, sometimes rules and regulations change and it’s hard to adapt and keep up.
He said things change and you sometimes get unintended violations.
Lueken said the fact that DNR has cited Landvatter in the past shows that the new site would be heavily regulated.
Many members of the opposition left the commission chambers confused about the what happened. More than one person was overheard asking if they had won or lost.
After all the discussion, Upchurch made a motion to deny the appeal and approve the conditional use permit with additional conditions. Upchurch requested shorter hours on Saturday, a bigger tree buffer and a retention basin be incorporated into the plans.
Upchurch, Ridder and Green all voted in favor of that motion with Shaw and Geisert opposed.
The rules for the hearing said that any change to the original ruling needed a four-fifths vote. Because only three favored the change, the motion was defeated
Upchurch said by the rules of hearing, if any change was defeated the board was forced to vote on the actual appeal with no changes.
During that vote Upchurch and Ridder voted to deny the appeal while Green switched sides and joined Shaw and Geisert in supporting the appeal.
Again, because a four-fifths vote was needed to change the original decision, the original ruling was upheld.
“We’re pleased with the ruling,” Landvatter said. “They didn’t show where we would impact Shaw’s, and I think that was the key. If that creek would have run into Shaw’s, it would have been a different story.”
Landvatter said he plans to start development on the site soon.