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Clerical error delays decision for proposed wedding center site off McClay Road

A decision that would be a major step toward allowing a wedding and banquet center to be developed on a 10.25-acre tract off McClay Road in St. Charles County that includes a 192-acre historic house is on hold because of a clerical error.

The clerical error will mean that the owners of the property, Ruth Choate and Michael Stanford, will have to start over and resubmit their request to rezone the property from residential single-family to a planned unit development [PUD] designation that allows commercial development on about 8 acres and residential development on two acres.

A public hearing on the rezoning application will again be held before the county’s planning and zoning commission on Aug. 17 with their recommendation going to the County Council, whose next scheduled meeting is on Aug. 29.

Choate and Stanford want to develop about eight acres of the tract as a banquet center and parking to hold bridal showers and weddings. Some residents who live near the property, however, say they are worried about loud wedding parties, heavy traffic, disruptions and a lowering of property values.

The St. Charles County Council was to decide on the rezoning at their July 25 meeting after the county’s planning and zoning commission voted 8-1 at their June 15 meeting recommending approval.  But action was tabled with county officials saying they may not have notified all the property owners who should have been informed of the proposed change.

Choate and Stanford had requested a change to commercial zoning for the tract when they first applied for a rezoning.  Because they wanted the have two acres of the tract to build their own home, Ruth Choate said this week that they withdrew the commercial rezoning request and submitted the PUD request.  That change required more property owners living within a thousand feet of the tract be sent a notification of the possible rezoning.

Instead a notification was sent out by the county for the PUD request using the list of property owners that were be notified for a commercial rezoning request, said Robert Myers, the county’s planning director.  About 25 property owners weren’t notified, Choate said.

“We need to make sure that’s correct,” Myers said. Choate said she is frustrated with the delay. “They [the county] want to make sure, they want to dot all their ‘Is’ and cross all their ‘ts’ so we’re going all the way back,” Choate said in an interview this week.

Choate said that their plans aren’t changing and they continue to seek the same rezoning.  What will they do if the PUD request is eventually denied?  “I haven’t thought about it,” Choate said.

She said the present residential zoning allows 7,000-square-foot lots, which may translate into 45 homes. “And we get letters every single week from developers,” she said.

The tract is located on the north side of McClay Road, about 400 feet east of St. Peters-Howell Road, and about 300 feet north of McClay.   The property features green space and trees, and is largely surrounded by homes. The 192-year-old stone house and a 70-year-old barn are major features of the property.

Choate said the property has been restored after it was purchased in 2013. She said she wants to open up the historic house to the public and the banquet center would support upkeep of the property.

A large number of residents turned out at the council meeting on July 25, mostly in opposition to the rezoning, asking the council to reject the rezoning. But not all nearby residents have opposed the banquet center plans, saying traffic is already heavy on McClay and St. Peters-Howell roads and nearby ball fields have bright lights and a nearby Elks Lodge hosts weddings and other events.

Choate said the old house would not be used for banquets and the center would be built with materials that limit noise.  She said the center was not a party center but a place for “elegant weddings.”

Because of the PUD designation, a more involved three-step review process can be involved.  If the council rejects the rezoning applications, the process ends.

If the PUD is approved by the council, property owners have to submit a preliminary plat and final development plan to the planning and zoning commission for review. If the commission rejects the plat and plan, the property owner can ask for a review by the council.

The third step is a final plat review by the commission and planning staff but not by the council.

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