A coalition of neighbors are seeking changes to Ballwin city code that would allow taller fencing around a Schnucks grocery store under construction next to residents' homes.
The so-called "boutique grocery" is located on the Chesterfield border, along Clarkson Road.
“Our home is our sanctuary," said Gerry Matlock, 67, who said he was designated to represent neighbors who live in the seven residential properties adjacent to the pending store. "We want to come home in the evenings, we want to do things with our families and with our kids, and with people who are retired. We want to have privacy, and we want to be separated from a commercial grocer.”
At a Board of Aldermen meeting this week, Matlock said he was grateful the board agreed to consider the group’s request last month for taller fencing at the store. The store's size and style has been criticized by residents and Patch users.
The board's decision at an April meeting effectively waived the requirement of a recommendation from the city’s Planning and Zoning Commission regarding a 10-foot fence adjacent to the Schnucks property, which would be two feet taller than currently allowed for commercial properties.
“So we want to compliment you all on doing that,” Matlock said.
The 41,000 square-foot store, which is being constructed at the southeast corner of Clarkson and Kehrs Mill roads, was the focus of a 2009 lawsuit on behalf of residents who said the Schnucks would hurt local property values. The court ultimately sided with the City of Ballwin and Schnuck Markets, green-lighting Ballwin's second Schnucks grocery store.
Since that ruling, neighbors of the site and Schnucks representatives have had ongoing discussions about the project's visual impact on the surrounding area.
“We’ve been working with … Schnucks very hard to achieve the effect of a visible barrier as a buffer between the store and the homes,” Matlock said.
Matlock said various factors including the height of a nearby berm, plans for fencing as well as trees planned for the site all will influence the final layout. Showing city council members photos taken from neighboring residential properties, however, Matlock said a 6-foot fence with a 2-foot addition attached planned for the store's perimeter revealed too much of the building's facade.
“You can see what a six foot (fence) will give you,” Matlock said. “It’s not a lot. We need the 10 feet.”
City Attorney Bob Jones said that if the council approves the proposal, which would apply to any commercial property that “immediately adjoins a parcel of four acres or more” in a neighborhood, such a fence still would need to be built on a business’s property, not a neighbor’s.
“It won’t be up to any of these adjacent property owners to erect a (10 foot) fence,” Jones said. “They won’t be allowed to do it.”
Jones said attorneys for Schnucks and the Ballwin project’s manager were familiar with the request but the store’s management team was not. Because of that, Jones said, the company requested the board wait on approving the new ordinance.
Jones said the proposal may be voted on at the council’s next meeting June 18, when Schnucks representatives are expected to be in attendance.