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Council waits for answers before deciding on PUD request in Dardenne Prairie

The pitchforks were not out for Dardenne Prairie officials and developer representatives at a public hearing on March 16 on a proposal to locate a Walmart grocery store on a tract north of Feise Road near Bryan Road.

But the development of the store and of the overall 86.5-acre tract known as the Bopp Property has drawn a sharp response from O’Fallon officials worried about the impact of development on the traffic on Bryan Road.

The Walmart Neighborhood Market is the first specific tenant discussed for the sometimes controversial development. The owners of the tract, Cora Bopp Limited Partnership, plan to develop the overall property in phases. In February, the partnership submitted a planned unit development (PUD) request to the city for 15.79 acres of the 86.5 acre tract.

Two public hearings were held on the PUD request, the latest on March 16 before the city’s Board of Aldermen. The board agreed to continue that public hearing and table the PUD request until its April 6 meeting as it awaits answers to questions about the PUD request.

Even through no final actions were taken, the meeting allowed a peek at what has been a largely behind the scenes discussion about traffic issues surrounding the site between O’Fallon and Dardenne Prairie officials.

The PUD request covers five parcels on the 15.79 acres – a 50,000-square-foot grocery store, 24,000 square feet of retail space, 26,000 square feet of a bank or retail space, 3,000 square feet for a fast food restaurant, and a 740-square-foot gas station. Two of the five parcels, for the store and the gas station,  would be purchased by Walmart.

On March 9, Walmart announced that they plan to build the grocery store and gas station. The store is about one-fourth of the size of a regular Walmart Supercenter store and smaller than competing supermarkets. It would be the third such store recently opened in St. Charles County.

But, despite the announcement, the PUD request that creates what Gary Feder, an attorney for the partnership, described as a largely general “development plan” for the site, isn’t the only requirement needed for the store or other development to become a reality. Also needed will be approvals of access points off Feise Road in Dardenne Prairie and off Bryan Road, whose right of way is controlled by O’Fallon.

“We’ve had a difficult discussion with O’Fallon regarding traffic,” Feder said at the hearing, attended by about 50 residents.

Mayor David Zucker said he met with O’Fallon Mayor Bill Hennessy and city staff last summer regarding road access and traffic issues. O’Fallon officials wanted access points on Bryan Road to line up with that city’s road cuts on the east side of Bryan Road.

O’Fallon officials also asked for an overall traffic study for the entire Bopp property, for which development plans haven’t been finalized.

“A decision by any city, whether it’s this city in respect to this plan or that city in response to road cuts, can’t be arbitrary and capricious or evil,” Zucker said. He said if the proposed road alignment aligns with road cuts and meets standard engineering standards and an access to Bryan Road is denied “then there will be litigation.”

O’Fallon City Councilmember Bob Howell [Ward 4], who attended the public hearing, said he wasn’t aware of development plans until recently and the city would like an overall study because of worries about excessive traffic on Bryan Road. Traffic concerns are among 17 questions about the PUD request posed to the partnership by Dardenne Prairie City Engineer Luke Kehoe.

Specific questions about the Walmart store including its appearance and hours would be addressed by Walmart representatives who are expected to come before the board as early as April if the PUD request is approved.

If approved, the development could generate funding for the city. John W. Brancaglione, vice president of PGAV Planners of St. Louis, a consultant for Dardenne Prairie, said there is a market for groceries in the area and the store is expected to generate about $300,000 in sales tax revenue for the city. Tommie Monroe, the city’s economic development coordinator, said other smaller grocery stories aren’t interested now in coming to the city.

“We can’t kidnap them and drag them here and force them to build a store,” Zucker said. “It just doesn’t work that way.”

Since 2013, many nearby residents have been opposed to development proposals for the overall tract and angry at board members and then Mayor Pam Fogarty. Zucker and other board members were among those residents.

“I don’t see any pitchforks at the moment, which is a good sign,” Zucker said at the start of the public hearing. “I was in that crowd two and a half years ago and there were pitchforks. We hope this board will do a better job of listening than in the past.”

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