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It's On to the Next Round for a Senior-Living Facility Proposal

City council approved plans for a senior-living facility on Wild Horse Creek Road Monday night. Now the developer must submit plans that show the proposed development in more detail.

There could be a new senior-living center in Chesterfield soon.

City council approved a zoning change and a conditional use permit that would allow landowner and developer Rodney Henry to build an  on eight acres on Wild Horse Creek Road.

A plan for the land near the  child care center and  has long been in the works. The land was zoned several years ago for neighborhood offices—such as doctors' or dentists' offices— but Henry never broke ground. 

Last fall, Henry submitted plans to the city for the senior-living center. The plans were originally met with disapproval because of a request for denser residential zoning. Neighbors were concerned because the area around Wild Horse Creek Road is noticeably less dense than other areas of Chesterfield—many homes are on lots a half-acre or larger. If more dense zoning was approved in the area, future developers might see that designation and ask for a higher density zoning on their land. It would be harder for the city to say no.

But that request was withdrawn.

The zoning change city council unanimously approved Monday night allows for residential development with large lots. It's a precedent neighbors are more comfortable with, because they feel it fits in with the surrounding area.

"I'm here to go on record to say we do support the plan because of the E1 zoning. We feel it’s important that it sets that precedent," Renee Heney told city council members. Heney represented the Wild Horse Creek Road Association, a collection of about a dozen subdivisions on the road.

"I think it could be a nice addition to our part of the community, even though it is mostly residential, and we'd like to keep it that way," she said.

The council also approved a conditional use permit for the land, a special zoning exception that allows the land to be used for a senior-living center.

This permit places additional requirements on the development that wouldn’t be included in zoning regulations. The permit caps the number of living units at 120, with no more than 33 in the independent living facility. It also caps the total square footage of the facility at 105,000 square feet. It specifies that the independent living facility not be occupied until the assisted living facility is. Plus, it limits building height: The assisted living facility will be no taller than two stories, and the independent living facility will be no taller than three stories.

Typically, conditional use permits only need to be approved by the Chesterfield Planning Commission. The planning commission  at its May 9 meeting.

But at the , members voted to bring the permit before the council via their power of review.

The permit was approved by a 6-1 vote Monday night. Ward 4 Councilman Bob Nation, , voted no. Ward 1 Councilman Barry Flachsbart was absent.

"I'll just go ahead and quickly state that I plan to vote no on the (conditional use permit), primarily because I think the building is too large relative to the acreage," Nation said. "It's too large, and it's inconsistent and incompatible with the surrounding area."

Nation said he was concerned that allowing a 105,000 square-foot facility in the area might encourage others to request larger developments.

But Ward 4 Councilwoman Connie Fults, who also represents the area the proposed development is in, disagreed. Fults said the development met two important requirements residents have long asked for: that the land be used for residential development and that the development minimally impact traffic on Wild Horse Creek Road. According to traffic studies, nursing homes create far less traffic than office buildings.

Residents do have another concern, though. They hope that the senior-living center is successful. because several large developments on Wild Horse Creek Road—the former West County Christian and Korean Full Gospel churches, and the —are vacant.

John Drake, who lives on Tara Oaks Drive, not far from the proposed senior-living facility, shares that concern.

"Each one of these (empty buildings) is literally within a stone's throw of this development. The west part of Chesterfield has become an institutional ghost town," Drake told city council.

"Is it possible that Mr. Henry's project could become another part of that group? The 'If we build it, they will come' business model does not carry as much weight anymore," he said.

Only time will answer that question, though.

Construction on the senior-living facility is still months away. Henry and his architects will have to present site plans for city approval. Those plans would clearly explain landscaping, parking, lighting and other details. Construction won’t start until those plans are approved, so it isn’t likely to occur until next year.

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