A conference room at Chesterfield City Hall was jammed for a Planning and Public Works Committee meeting earlier this month, with pumpkin farms, outlet malls, snow, roads, and dump trucks on the agenda.
But first, most cities have a Planning and Zoning Commission that makes recommendations to the City Council or Board of Aldermen on new developments and zoning issues.
A good example of how this system is not supposed to work is the new Schnucks store on Clarkson Road at Kehr’s Mill. The Ballwin P&Z Commission voted against the Schnucks. But the Board of Aldermen ignored entirely their own Planning and Zoning Commission, and approved the store construction.
(The Schnucks is in Ballwin, but the street is in Chesterfield, and across the street is the City of Clarkson Valley.)
Now in Chesterfield there is an extra layer of bureaucracy to gaining approval or rejection of such a project. After the Planning Commission, items go to another committee made up of city council members—Planning and Public Works Committee. Then it goes to the city council. (More about this later; see Outlet Mall II.)
So this month's Chesterfield meeting had a packed room, including outlet mall develpers. There was also a camera crew from KTVI Channel 2.
Television crews at these meetings are unusual. However, the day before KTVI ran a story at least three times about how the owners of Rombach’s pumpkin farm were fearful of reported plans to run stormwater drainage for the outlet mall smack through the middle of their farm.
It was classic TV; Big Business versus the little guy, money grubbers against a St. Louis family tradition of kids picking out pumpkins, and touring the haunted barn, eating the snacks, and more. It's huge.
So city engineer Aimee Nassif described for everyone that there was nothing before the city at any level involving stormwater being diverted through the Rombach property, and the previous news stories were based on mis-information. And nothing more was going to be discussed on the issue that night, since nothing was on file with the city, she said.
So with that brief statement, the TV crew was then trapped for the next 75 minutes in the meeting. It was too crowded for him to break down his camera and leave. I guess it was payback for the "mis-information" his station put out on pumpkin farms earlier.
Now here's something residents in Ward 1 can get excited about. St. Louis County is offering to swap ownership of two roads with Chesterfield. Chesterfield takes over Ladue Road from Highway 141 to Olive Boulevard. Then the County takes over a stretch of Woods Mill Road to the south city limits of Chesterfield.
Chesterfield residents in subdivisions that feed onto Ladue Road have long complained about lousy snow removal, since Ladue Road is a county road west of Highway 141.
City administrator Mike Herring said the city would need a $145,000 new dump truck if it added the 2.8 miles of Ladue Road to their maintenance schedule.
The city previously took over ownership of Schoettler Road from St. Louis County.
OUTLET MALL II
So the really big topic is the proposed outlet mall next to the Missouri River.
This is when Councilwoman Connie Fults, who looks like a West County Republican and usually talks like one, was suddenly taking on a decidedly different approach.
The old-school Republican way would be for government to get out of the way of the business people, and let them succeed. In the words of Ronald Reagan: “Government is not the solution to our problems; it is the problem.”
Fults was complaining the artist renderings of the outlet showed the walls of the rear of the stores all being the same material. She was on a roll, about how the developers needed to change up the building material along the wall. Include some brick and then masonry she suggested. Fults was driving up the price of the project with every breath—suggesting the buildings needed some “jewelry.”
She said buildings in Chesterfield were "good-lookin' " and by golly, this outlet mall would be too. They had just unanimously approved a Valvoline station—garage bays and cinderblock, with a big red stripe.
Outlet developers had showed plans that included a 65-foot high tower that some said resembled a lighthouse, and several shorter towers. The Planning Commission didn’t want any tower over 45-feet. The developers came back with new plans showing a 60-foot tower and a couple of 50-foot towers, and some at 45 feet or less.
No one seemed to have a problem with the compromise.
But the one thing members did seem to have a problem with was the time. Council people scheduled to attend a catered affair with the new American Girl store in town were getting antsy.
Mayor Bruce Geiger, who was sick the day before, left by about 6:30pm, followed by city administrator Mike Herring.
Now when I was an elected official, I always had a hard time taking free food from a town business where I might have to vote later on an issue.
I attended one “special” opening of a restaurant with free food. I paid special attention to the menu prices, and left the normal price of food as a tip to the servers.
But from what I understand, the American Girl store is taking on a life of its own.
And as the city conference room began to empty out, the TV guy was able to break down his camera tripod, and escape.