The St. Louis County Circuit Court sided with Ballwin city representatives this month over a zoning decision to allow a Schnucks grocery store in northwest Ballwin, despite concerns from landowners who fear their property values will be diminished.
The store's proposed location falls on the northwest corner of Ballwin near the Chesterfield border, at the southeast corner of Clarkson and Kehrs Mill roads. The site also would be south of a multi-family residential development in Chesterfield owned by the Picardy Development Company, and is adjacent to the Clarkson Mill and Stonebriar single-family subdivisions and Marquette High School.
In June 2009, the Ballwin Board of Aldermen voted against the wishes of the city's planning and zoning commission and approved Schnucks' request made earlier that year for a zoning change at the proposed site.
Representatives of Schnucks described the proposed building as a "boutique-style neighborhood grocery store that is approximately 41,000 square feet," according to court records.
The Ballwin board's decision prompted the lawsuit against Schnuck Markets and the city. Residents of Ballwin and Chesterfield argued against the proposed store by citing property value concerns and traffic-safety issues.
John Neff, a professional appraiser for Schnucks, testified that properties immediately adjacent to the proposed site may decrease in value, but other homes within a quarter-mile of the commercial development actually may increase.
Circuit Court Judge John Ross wrote in his ruling that the circuit court can't overrule a zoning change unless it was "clearly arbitrary and unreasonable." This is true even if the court finds that the zoning change is "reasonably doubtful or fairly debatable," Ross wrote.
Attorneys on behalf of the case's plaintiffs struggled to disprove the zoning change's validity, particularly in light of enhanced resale values elsewhere.
"Plaintiffs testified to their belief that property values will decrease, and that noise and traffic will increase," Ross wrote. "With the exception of Plaintiff [Christine] Cybulski, the evidence indicates that property values will increase in surrounding areas."
Ross wrote that concerns about traffic congestion and pedestrian safety will be addressed through additional turn lanes and electric crosswalk signs, respectively.