Without knowing that the Pacific Planning and Zoning (P&Z) Commission wanted the city to petition MoDOT and St. Louis County on behalf of residents, aldermen voted 5-0 to grant preliminary approval for a utility construction company to build an office complex at Highway 66 and Hill View Drive in St. Louis County.
Alderman Greg Rahn was absent at the Feb. 6 meeting. Alderman Carol Johnson served as acting president and chaired the meeting in the absence of the mayor.
Johnson took Alderman Nick Chlebowski, who serves on P&Z, to task at the end of the meeting for withholding the plan board’s request during a public hearing on ADB Companies plat and planned unit development (PUD) zoning that was on the agenda for a first reading.
“If we had known about the P&Z request our vote might have been different,” she said.
ADB, which provides construction for public utility and technology companies, wants to build an office building, maintenance and storage buildings and two parking areas on the site which was recently annexed into Pacific.
In the Jan. 23 P&Z public hearing on the plan, neighboring property owners voiced concerns that the developer had originally promised there would be no entry to the new headquarters site from Hill View Drive, which is narrow and in poor condition. It’s also the entrance and exit to their residential neighborhood.
The plan ADB presented to P&Z on Jan. 23 included an entrance to a 170-space employee parking lot from Hill View Drive.
David Schlueter, project manager, said initially only 120 to 130 employees would use that parking lot.
Plan commissioners voiced concerns about the amount of traffic on the narrow St. Louis County road.
At the P&Z meeting, Chlebowski argued in favor of the plan board recommending approval of the plan, which he described as jewel of industrial design that will bring 300 jobs to the city.
“Are we going to reject the entire plan over access on Hill View?” Chlebowski asked.
Plan board member Jim Smith said it’s in the interest of the city to have the development and the promised 300 jobs, but Chairman Linda Bruns said restrictions had been placed on the original plan in June 2017 that there would be no entrance off Hill View Drive.
Bruns said she is familiar with the size and condition of the rural residential road.
“The developer made that promise. We made that promise. The residents heard that,” Bruns said. “Now that promise is being broken.”
Chlebowski said he did not believe the commission could put conditions on Hill View Drive (a St. Louis County road) or Highway 66.
“I’m of a mind to go ahead and pass it and it’s really up to MoDOT and St. Louis County,” Chlebowski said. “We can make our concerns known.”
Bruns said if P&Z did not bring the issue to the board of aldermen it would go under the table and everyone would forget about it.
“I want to see some kind of safety catch so that it just doesn’t get swept under the rug,” Bruns said.
Chlebowski said the city could recommend that the board of aldermen direct the city administrator to make contact with MoDOT and St. Louis County and relay the concerns that the city has over the additional traffic and the potential for danger at that site.
“I’m the liaison to the board,” he said. “I’m not going to go to the board and say everything is fine, nobody had any concerns. My job is to make the board of aldermen aware of the concerns of this board.”
Gary Koelling said a clear understanding of P&Z concerns should go to the board of aldermen.
“If you asked what commissioner here is not concerned with that road and that access please raise your hand, you’re not going to see anybody raise their hand,” Koelling said. “When you take that to the board (of aldermen) you’ve got to say that is how the board feels and there were six of them.”
Gene Miles said aldermen should want to help the residents.
“If you just put it to the board they should want to protect the traffic for the people,” he said.
Chlebowski told commissioners that their concerns would be relayed to the board of aldermen.
“You have my word that it is going to be addressed,” he said.
However, during the Feb. 6 public hearing at the board of aldermen meeting, as resident Tony French appealed to the board not to allow the entrance on Hill View, Chlebowski kept silent on the P&Z request.
Mike Bates, a P&Z commissioner who abstained during the plan board meeting because he owns property on Hill View Drive, spoke in favor of the residents. He said the city made a pretty solemn commitment to the residents that there would be no entrance to the ADB development off Hill View.
“Hill View is unimproved chip and seal, with no curb and gutter, and no centerline.” Bates said. “It would be very disruptive to the neighborhood to bring that much traffic onto that road. It would be a mistake.”
Bates said another solution would be for the developer to build a vehicle bridge across a creek that runs through the building site and have employees enter the parking lot from the east.
A pedestrian bridge across that creek is included in the plan.
Bates pointed out that since one entrance off Route 66 had been eliminated, ADB would save the cost of construction of that entrance which could be applied to the cost of a vehicle bridge between the main entrance and the employee parking lot.
Schlueter said the creek is a 100-year flood plain creek with a Corps of Engineers jurisdiction,” Schlueter said. “We’d need Corps permit and a FEMA study to disturb that creek.”
Johnson said she was not in favor of completing the first reading on the plan, and would like to see the builder take another look at building a bridge and having employees enter the parking lot via Highway 66.
Schlueter said the developer had a tentative agreement with St. Louis County to allow entrance to the parking lot from Hill View. He said he should have final approval from the county in a couple of weeks.
City Administrator Steve Roth said St. Louis County reviews road requests internally and does not conduct public meetings, but would accept comments.
Chlebowski spoke in favor of completing the first reading. He stressed that the project was extremely well planned and would bring jobs to the city.
“Any other community around us would want this development,” he said.
Aldermen approved the first reading of the ordinance accepting and approving the subdivision plat and planned unit development zoning for ADB companies.
The measure will come back to the board of aldermen for final approval Feb. 20.
Speaks Up After Vote
At the end of the meeting, when aldermen presented their wishes and their constituents’ needs, Chlebowski then reported that there were concerns about Hill View and accidents that have happened in that area and the amount of traffic that this development will generate.
He said commissioners had asked the board of aldermen to relay concerns to MoDOT and St. Louis County.
“We needed to know that before we voted,” Johnson said.
Roth was directed to prepare a letter to St. Louis County and MoDOT to relay the city’s concerns about additional traffic and number of accidents and potential for danger at the site.