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Legal settlement may open door for controversial housing development near Peruque Creek

A legal hurdle that slowed the development of new homes near Peruque Creek in Lake Saint Louis may be going away.

But a new complicating factor – although city officials doubt it is a real concern – may literally fly in the face of getting work started quickly: bats.

Lake Saint Louis officials said that settling the lawsuit could be the first step toward starting work on 20 single-family homes in a subdivision called Oak Bluff Estates. Aldermen had approved a controversial rezoning of 19 acres to allow home construction in 2015.

Nearby residents opposed the rezoning, saying that the new homes might increase runoff, flooding and siltation along Peruque Creek, which flows into the community’s more than 600-acre main lake. Some residents said the property also may be encumbered by a former licensing agreement with the nearby Oak Bluff Preserve subdivision and subject to restrictions.

The board’s regular meeting agenda included a bill approving preliminary and final plats subdividing the 19 acres into 20 residential lots, which was the final approval needed to start work on the development. The property is located at the end of Silver Fern Court, east of Duello Road, west of Interstate 64 and south of Prospect Road, near the Oak Bluff Preserve subdivision.

City Administrator Paul Markworth said Anne Kelly, an attorney for Oak Bluff Investment Group LLC, notified the city about a separate issue that came up as the settlement agreement was reached. “Don’t laugh,” Markworth advised the board during the work session. Indiana bats, an endangered species, migrate to Missouri at the end of March and provisions in federal law in some cases prohibit trees where the bats can roost from being cut down between March 31 and the middle of October.

Derek Koestel, the city’s public works director, said his research suggests the regulations may only apply to the removal of trees on public land. The city government is not involved in regulating issues of endangered species.

City officials were not sure if the provision involves public land or applies to areas that use federal funds.

“I don’t think this is going to be a problem, but I don’t know enough to say that it isn’t,” Koestel said.

In an interview on March 22, Markworth said the investment group cannot remove trees without showing the city that federal requirements involving the bats would not apply. Kelly, who was at the regular meeting on March 21, agreed that some research may be needed.

Another issue involves getting substantial work done before the zoning, which the board approved in 2015, lapses in April. The zoning may lapse because no major construction has taken place on the property. City officials say they are looking into extending the zoning.

Bat issues or not, the board was not swayed to delay action, approving the bill by a 5-0 vote involving the preliminary and final plats. Alderman Gary Turner [Ward 1] was absent. No one spoke at a public hearing on the preliminary and final subdivision plat bill before the aldermen voted.

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