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To build or not to build

Lake Saint Louis officials have delayed a decision on a rezoning that would allow 20 new single-family homes near Peruque Creek.

The delay is the result of concern from nearby residents regarding flooding, runoff, traffic and whether earlier land use agreements allow the rezoning. About a dozen residents spoke to the city’s Board of Aldermen at its Jan. 19 meeting during a public hearing on the rezoning.

 

Residents voiced concerns about new homes increasing runoff, debris and silt into Peruque Creek, which flows into the community’s more than 600-acre main lake. The new homes also may add traffic to nearby subdivision streets and change the character of the area, others said.

But a major concern is the proximity of the 19-acre site to the creek during periods of flooding or high water backup from the main lake. Maps indicate the site may be at elevations that have been flooded in the past.

D. Jerry Leigh, a nearby resident, said neighbors may have to take out residents of these new homes “by boat” in the event of flooding.

“These lots are going to be underwater folks and that’s not right,” he said.

The area of the development has had severe floods about once every five years that have, at times, placed “tractors underwater and boats in trees,” Leigh said.

Increased development in the area adds runoff and silt to the main lake, he said. The developers may have to seek permits from the U.S. Corps of Engineers and the Federal Emergency Management Agency because of flood plain and possibly other issues, he said.

DuBois said the developer is aware of flood plain issues and will work with FEMA. The development runs along an elevated ridge that may be out of flood elevations shown on existing maps. A storm water siltation basin will allow for treatment and slow release of water, he said.

Leigh, who manages flood plain properties, said the basins and new technology work but they have to be maintained, which is expensive. Subdivision residents will need a board of trustees to manage the system, which they will have to pay for, he said.

It’s something the architects do once, the engineers do once, construction does once and then they are gone and it’s yours,” Leigh said.

The rezoning application submitted by Jeremy Malensky with Dutchman Homes LLC seeks a change from non-urban zoning to single-family residential that would allow the 20 homes with a minimum lot size of 15,000 square feet.

The property is located near where the creek flows into the main lake and would extend from the end of Silver Fern Court in the Villas at Crimson Oaks subdivision. The site is also east of Duello Road, west of Hwy. 40-61 and south of Prospect Road. It is near the Oak Bluff Preserve subdivision.

A spokesperson for the developer, Gabe DuBois, design director for THD Design Group, the lots would average one-half acre. A private road would be extended from Silver Fern Court to reach homes with a starting price of $500,000.

DuBois said the developer would preserve about 50 percent of the tree cover in the heavily-wooded area. While added traffic on local streets is a concern, the new development may not increase traffic congestion significantly, he said.

But residents were not convinced. Dennis Zimmer, an Oak Bluff Preserve resident, said the tract is still part of the original plat for Oak Bluff Preserve subdivision. An agreement signed in 1978 set restrictions on minimum lot sizes that still may apply to this property, he said.

Two dozen custom-built homes on 3-acre or more lots have been developed in Oak Bluff, he said.

“It seems disingenuous to tell all of us who followed the rules that if the developer waits long enough he can exponentially increase the housing density within a well established subdivision regardless of any irrevocable restrictions on property usage, which have been in place for the last 36 years,” Zimmer said.

Other residents said they are worried about traffic and changes to their neighborhoods.

“This is a very emotional issue for us, as you can imagine,” said Julie Mouthrop, a Spruce Forest Drive resident.

She said she worried that construction traffic and more residents with more vehicles traveling local streets would change the complexion of the quiet neighborhood that has many older residents.

“I wish you (aldermen) could put yourself in our shoes,” she said.

Ted Beussink, who also lives along Spruce Forest Drive, said more traffic may contribute to safety issues on roads where there have been several traffic fatalities recently.

He said the area that floods is along largely undeveloped and forested with herds of deer, wild turkeys and even bald eagles.

“It (the development) would definitely eliminate that, which I don’t think is a good idea,” Beussink said.

Board members and  Mayor Kathy Schweikert made few comments. City officials said the developer proposed providing access that could link a city park property to other park property but the park land would remain without access to a road.

Alderman Tony Zito (Ward 1) said there were some issues raised that he wasn’t aware of and asked if the city’s Planning and Zoning Commission could give him a more detailed report. He said he was “very disappointed” that the proposed development included private streets that residents there would have to maintain while also paying city taxes.

The board opted to give a bill on the rezoning a first reading; however, Schweikert and other aldermen did want to review the issue that Zimmer brought up about pre-existing agreements.

Schweikert said the board may make a decision at its Feb. 2 meeting.

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