A zone change application that was scheduled for a public hearing at the July 3 board of aldermen meeting was returned to the planning and zoning commission for a public hearing there.
The action followed a lengthy discussion on the city administrator’s authority and the expectation of the public.
City Administrator Steve Roth had scheduled two public hearings for the meeting concerning a 3.4-acre parcel located at 5802 Hill View Drive, adjacent to the ADB Companies construction site at 18777 U.S. Highway 66.
ADB Companies, which purchased the parcel to add to its headquarters complex, asked the city to voluntarily annex the site into the city and rezone it from NU non-urban to M-1 light industrial. Both actions require public hearings.
City ordinance requires public hearings at both the P&Z level and by the board of aldermen.
Roth said state statute requires only one public hearing on zone changes, and he (Roth), City Attorney Bob Jones and Building Commissioner Shawn Seymour decided to hold both public hearings at the board of aldermen meeting.
“We think we were within our authority to schedule both public hearings at the same meeting,” Roth said. “The property owner asked us to act as quickly as possible.”
Mayor Steve Myers said he believed that Roth had acted in good faith.
“I believe he (Roth) was acting in good faith and not to hurt feelings or undercut process with malice,” Myers said. “Some members on P&Z were upset there was no advertised public hearing. I don’t know what will happen this evening. We want to open a public hearing to allow anyone to speak on voluntary annexation.”
Alderman Ed Gass said no one suspected malice on the part of the city administrator, but the decision to eliminate the P&Z public hearing is a matter of the public trust in government.
“The ordinance book calls for a public hearing at P&Z,” Gass said. “I think if we don’t send this back to P&Z people will think ‘they lied to us.’ It is in the book that way. Let’s send it back to P&Z and start again.”
Hill View Drive residents were notified of the July 3 scheduled public hearing, but not the June 26 meeting where the first action on the application occurred.
“What we do tonight is going to reflect on what we do for anybody right now with the ordinance the way it is,” Myers said.
Myers noted that Ray Gullet Jr. was in the process of developing a subdivision on Highway N and a public hearing had been scheduled before the board of aldermen.
“There is another development, and that is the Gullet property, which is formerly the Bruns property, which is another situation where he has asked to move it fast. This is going to delay that as well,” Myers said.
Alderman Carol Johnson said both projects should go back to P&Z for advertised public hearings.
“I think we should send both back to P&Z,” said Johnson, adding the city’s decision not to notify the Hill View Drive residents until after city action has taken on the measure did not fulfill the promise made to the residents.
Johnson said she had made a point of asking the city to advertise public hearings on St. Louis County properties in St. Louis County newspapers. She said she will make a motion that future public hearings be advertised in St. Louis County papers.
The city attorney cautioned such action.
“You should check the cost before doing that,” Jones said. “That’s going to be extremely costly.”
Johnson responded back sharply.
“It’s common courtesy that we notify them,” she said. “Now we have the lawyer weighing in on it, saying it’s going to be extremely costly. How many times have I heard it’s going to be extremely costly? So, we the board of aldermen, are having to explain to people why we have an extreme mess to straighten out.”
Jones said Roth acted within the law. He also said it was his opinion that since speaker cards are available at P&Z meetings that constitutes a public hearing.
“I think they (P&Z) did hold a public hearing,” Jones said. “ It just wasn’t advertised 15 days ahead in the newspaper. People were allowed to speak.”
The only speaker at the June 26 meeting was Planning Commissioner Mike Bates, who abstained from action on the zone change and stepped down from the dais to speak as a Hill View Drive property owner.
Bates said Hill View Drive residents were notified of the July 3 scheduled public hearing, but not of the action planned for that evening (June 26), so no Hill View Drive residents except himself were present.
Speaking again at the July 3 meeting, Bates said the big issue for Hill View Drive property owners is the amount of traffic that ADB Companies will add to what is an unimproved road.
Bates also questioned why the city of Pacific and not the property owner was the applicant for the both the Hill View Drive annexation and the zone change.
“What threw me was the city of Paciﬁc applying for zoning change and talking about this like it’s an expense to the city,” he said. “Why is the city applying for a zoning change? I can see the city as the applicant for annexation if we desire to bring this property in. It’s an asset. But I don’t understand why the city is applying for zoning change.”
Bates also took issue with the city attorney saying the P&Z action was within state law. He said city zoning change ordinances are very clear. They do exceed standards set by state law.
“All aldermen felt, when this ordinance was passed, that it was important to give the public the right to speak,” he said. “So now the city is going to do this quickly. It’s important to slow down and give the public an opportunity to speak.”
Bates also noted that state laws are set as a minimum and are not the gold standard.
“Municipalities routinely set their own standards on their standards,” Bates said. “We need to slow things down and give the public access to speak.
“I’d like to strongly point out that if you drive up there, the property they are adding is pretty far back,” he added. “At P&Z, no one said what the use of this property was. It’s hard to visualize that they would never have access to that property off Hill View. The trafﬁc is the big issue. This is an unimproved road. It’s asphalt laid down on top of dirt.
“I would also like for aldermen to look at the procedures as to why the city was the applicant,” Bates said. “Why is the city bearing the cost on this?”
Alderman Andy Nemeth said that while he felt that Hill View Drive residents were notified of the July 3 public hearing he thought the application should go back to P&Z.
“We do need to reset this one and push it back to the correct channel, unfortunately.” Nemeth said. “And hopefully this will be the last time. After we clean i upt we wouldn’t have any type of unbusiness-friendly policy and the unfortunate event of starting something over.
“This is part of that cleanup that we keep talking about,” he added. “So I’m comfortable with that going back and cleaning it all up.”
With Alderman Herb Adams absent, aldermen voted 5-0 to return both applications to P&Z for public hearings.