Proposed Site for Welding School

The American Welding Academy has proposed to build a school at 3 Progress Parkway. The property is located at the intersection of Prairie Dell Road and Progress Parkway. Grading work has already begun on the site. The Union Planning and Zoning Commission backed a conditional use permit to allow the academy to operate. The city’s board of aldermen will vote on the permit request at a future meeting.  Missourian Photo.

Union aldermen will require a fence between a proposed welding academy and a residential property.

Monday night board members agreed to award a conditional use permit (CUP) to the American Welding Academy to operate a training facility at 3 Progress Parkway. The only condition placed on the permit was a requirement that the welding academy build a fence along the western property line to separate its site from Gregory Brunkhorst’s property.

All the aldermen supported the CUP, however, Karen Erwin voted against the provision to add the fence.

Academy Background

Rob Knoll, representing American Welding Academy, said the facility would be a training ground for aspiring welders. The facility would be built on land formerly owned by the Union Development Corporation (UDC) at the intersection of Progress Parkway and Prairie Dell Road.

Progress Parkway would be extended onto the property for the facility. 

Initially the plan is to have day classes, Knoll said, but if the facility is a success night classes could be added down the road. The plan is to have somewhere between 25 and 60 students.

Knoll said all operations will be done in the enclosed facility. He said all students will be welding in a designated welding booth.

The city’s planning and zoning commission supported the permit request at its June 24 meeting. 

Opposition

The plan board’s support came after Brunkhorst expressed his extreme opposition to the plan. Brunkhorst, who said he lives on the adjacent property on Prairie Dell Road just outside the city limits, opposes plans for the development of the site.

At the planning and zoning meeting, Brunkhorst submitted a letter laying out all his complaints. Brunkhorst said he would like a vegetative barrier and something done about odors. City Administrator Russell Rost told him those restrictions might not be needed now. 

Monday night he reiterated his request through his attorney, Nick Chlebowski. Addressing the aldermen, Chlebowski said his client understood the permit likely was going to be granted, but he still wanted some “reasonable mitigation.

Chlebowski said Brunkhorst was requesting a 5-foot berm near the property line and an 8-foot fence on top of the berm. He said that would provide a 13-foot barrier to protect Brunkhorst’s property from potential light and noise pollution. 

Knoll pointed out there was an existing vegetative barrier between the properties. He said there were several trees along the fence line that were very large. 

Knoll added the plans only call for five outdoor parking lot lights and all are directed down and shielded. He said they were “smart” lights and could be programmed in ways to limit usage. 

Chlebowski said the trees were a good barrier, but didn’t provide any coverage at the ground level because they were so tall. He said the parking lot lights weren’t the only lights that concerned his client.

Rost reminded aldermen that a conditional use permit can be recalled and reviewed at any time. He said a few years back the city awarded a permit to a body shop.

After the business had been open for a while, neighbors complained about a few things. The permit was reviewed and additional conditions were added.

Rost said that could be done in this case as well.

Chlebowski noted that the fence also would serve as a security measure for Brunkhorst and protect his property from unwanted visitors. 

Knoll told the board that the welding academy will dismiss any student for wrongdoing done outside of school and said that provision should prevent anyone from breaking into Brunkhorst’s property.

Knoll said a fence would be an issue financially. He said it would be about $20,000 to $30,000 in unplanned expense. Knoll also objected to Brunkhort’s request that the fence be placed away from the trees on the property line.

If the fence had to be set back a few feet, Knoll said he would basically be giving up a portion of his property to Brunkhorst. He said he paid a lot of money for the entire lot and would like to use it all.

Ultimately Aldermen Bob Schmuke said he felt the trees would provide enough of a barrier that a berm wasn’t necessary. However, he said he had no problem requiring a 6-foot fence.

The fence would have to be opaque and comply with the city’s codes, but any style and location would be up to Knoll. 

Erwin was the lone objector to Schmuke’s motion for the one condition. She said she supported the academy, but didn’t think a fence was necessary.

All other aldermen supported both the academy and the fence, and the permit was approved with the one condition.