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Soccer fields kick up protest in western St. Charles County

soccer ballA proposal to build seven soccer fields and a gravel parking lot in an area along Hwy. Z south of Wentzville was kicked back to supporters and opponents to see if they can come to some compromise before the St. Charles County Council votes on it.

An ordinance that would grant a conditional use permit allowing the athletic fields was introduced at the council’s July 13 meeting, but the council took no further action on the bill – allowing time for the permit applicant and nearby property owners to “try to come to an agreement,” said Councilman Joe Brazil (District 2).  The council’s next meeting is scheduled for July 27.

An agreement may be needed because the soccer complex is opposed by a number of nearby residents who fear erosion problems, lighting, traffic accidents along Hwy. Z, and loss of property values. The county’s Planning and Zoning Commission had voted 4-3 at its June 17 meeting to recommend approval of the permit to the council.

The 62.41-acre tract is on the west side of Hwy. Z, about 300 feet south of Stealey Road. The property is zoned agricultural with a 5-acre minimum lot size and a conditional use permit would be required for fields to be placed on the property.

Mike Woijeck, president of the Missouri Thorns Football club and the permit applicant, told the council that the fields would help about 350 young women, ages 4-18, develop their playing skills and could lead to college scholarships for some of them. The club is an all-girls soccer league that has an association with the Portland Thorns, a professional soccer team.

Woijeck said the $1.2 million synthetic fields would be made of coconut husks rather than rubber to lessen cancer risks for players. The club is interested in this property because other possible locations are in the floodplain and flooding would damage the synthetic turf.

If approved, the complex would use an existing entrance and driveway owned by Central Electric Power Cooperative limiting traffic issues on Hwy. Z, Woijeck said.  A gravel parking lot with 300 spaces would be built and the site would be served by portable restrooms that would be fenced off.

Woijeck said only the two turf fields would be lighted with special “Mosco” lights that have shields that reflect lighting downward toward the fields and there would be no public address system.

Gregory Geiger, executive director for the club, told the council his research suggests that property values near other soccer and athletic field complexes in the county have risen in recent years. But nearby residents at the council meeting were skeptical. Brad Goss, an attorney for some residents, told the council that there were a number of questions that needed to be addressed before a conditional use permit is approved.

“In essence, we’re trying to make sure that the surrounding neighborhood is preserved,” Goss said.

Amy Kartmann, a nearby resident, presented the council with photographs of dangerous areas along Hwy. Z and existing erosion problems with the property that she said have never been corrected.

Rob Jorgensen, another nearby resident, said he stopped construction on his home adjacent to the property until he sees what happens because he is worried about the complex’s impact on his future property values.

Jorgensen said what he’s seen so far is a “low-end” proposal for an athletic complex. He urged the county to look carefully at the proposal because residents had invested their life savings in their property.

“If you guys (the council) don’t hold them accountable from the get go, then you know as well as I do they won’t do it,” he said.

Councilman Joe Cronin (District 2) said the conditional use permit should spell out how the applicant addresses issues involving lighting, dust control on a gravel parking lot, traffic concerns, and berms that might separate the fields from nearby homes before it is considered by the council. The applicant should also discuss these issues with neighbors to see if agreements should be reached, he said.

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