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County Commission approves controversial rezoning allowing wedding center

The St. Charles County Council has voted unanimously to approve a controversial rezoning request that will allow a wedding and banquet center to be developed on a 10.25-acre tract off McClay Road in St. Charles County and which includes a 192-year-old historic house.

The request has gone back and forth between the council and Planning and Zoning Commission over the last several months; however, the council approved the rezoning at its Sept. 12 meeting.

Nearby subdivision residents were strongly opposed to a wedding center out of concerns about dangerous traffic, loud wedding parties and its impact on property values. Some of these residents said after the meeting that they are looking into filing lawsuits to reverse the decision.

“We’re calling an attorney,” said Lisa Portilla, whose property abuts a portion of the tract and who has repeatedly asked the council to turn down the rezoning request.

Ruth Choate and Michael Stanford own the property and requested its rezoning  from residential single-family to a planned unit development [PUD] designation to allow commercial development on about 8 acres and residential development on two acres for their own home. The pair want to develop the eight acres as a banquet center to hold bridal showers and weddings.

The tract is located 300 feet up on the north side of McClay Road, about 400 feet east of St. Peters Howell Road. 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 its major features.

Choate said the property was restored after its purchase in 2013. She said the banquet center would support upkeep of the property. The old house will not be used for banquets and the center would be built with materials that limit noise, Choate said.  She said the center will not be a party center, but a place for “elegant weddings.”

Some residents, who said traffic is already heavy on McClay and St. Peters Howell roads and also pointed out nearby ball fields that have bright lights, supported the banquet center plans. A nearby Elks Lodge already hosts weddings and other events, they noted.

Shannon Howard, a realtor and member of the St. Louis County Historical Building Commission, spoke of a similar historic house and property in north St. Louis County in Spanish Lake that she said has been an economic and cultural asset to that community.

However, Melissa Richardson, a nearby resident, who spoke at the council’s Sept. 12 meeting, said: “We are the majority, we have asked you to do as our elected officials do and represent the majority of your community. Be the voice for your community and do the right thing and say no and keep this area residential.”

Councilman Terry Hollander [District 5], whose district includes a portion of the area, said councilmembers and administrative staff have been impressed with how the property has been cleaned up in the last several years and that the owners immediately responded favorably to five of six suggestions by the county’s planning staff.

“My impression is that the applicants will be good neighbors and that this is a good use for this particular property,” Hollander said. The council then voted 7-0 in favor of the rezoning.

With the PUD is approval, the 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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