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St. Peters aldermen reconsider Holiday Inn Express proposal

A proposed four-story hotel opposed by its would-be neighbors in St. Peters is back before the city’s Board of Aldermen, possibly as soon as May 25.

The city’s Planning and Zoning Commission recommended approval of a special use permit at its May 3 meeting that, if granted, would allow a proposed 81-room Holiday Inn Express and Suites to be built on a vacant 3.5-acre lot near Interstate 70. The recommendation could go to the city’s Board of Aldermen for a final decision as early as the May 25 meeting. In February, the same hotel project failed to win aldermanic approval.

The lot on which the hotel would be built is currently zoned commercial. It is located on the southwest corner of Veterans Memorial Parkway and Richmond Center Boulevard. The applicant is HIE St. Peters, LLC.

The commission’s recommendation and a site plan for the hotel were approved by a voice vote after a public hearing that drew strong opposition from about a half-dozen Richmond subdivision residents. Email messages from other residents also voiced strong concern.

Subdivision residents said they worried that the hotel would prompt more traffic in their subdivision, endanger their privacy, lower property values and pose possible threats to neighborhood children. They also said the hotel might endanger children who will use an early childhood center for the Fort Zumwalt School District across Richmond Center Drive. The new center is utilizing a closed Sanford-Brown College training center building and is expected to open this fall.

In February, the planning and zoning commission had recommended board approval and aldermen voted 4-2 in favor of the permit; however, city officials said the measure failed because it needed five votes from the eight-member board to pass. Randy Weber, the city’s legal counsel, told the board in February that the current commercial zoning for the property allows restaurants, bars, nurseries, movie theaters and other uses of the property. But a special use permit was needed for placing a hotel there. He said the proposed hotel also met all applicable major city code requirements.

Brad Goss, an attorney for HIE St. Peters, LLC, echoed Weber’s comments, saying at the commission’s May 3 meeting that the present zoning allows for more intensive uses of the property without a permit.  The special use permit requires the applicant to show how the hotel will impact the surrounding area, particularly traffic and access to nearby roads, and its effect on the health and well-being of the area.

Goss noted that the applicant has continued to modify the hotel proposal, first eliminating a proposed restaurant and turning it into an extended stay facility.

A traffic study required by the city suggests that the hotel will have a limited impact on traffic patterns. The hotel entrance and exit are being reconfigured to not allow hotel traffic to enter the subdivision to the south, Goss added.

The orientation of the four-story hotel building will now be perpendicular to I-70 and not parallel to the subdivision so guests can’t look directly into homes and yards. Side windows that face the subdivision will be opaque so people can’t look through them.

Goss added that children also cannot be seen entering the school from the hotel, he said.  More landscaping is planned to provide a further buffer between the hotel and subdivision. He also cited studies that suggest that child abuse incidents are less likely in places like hotels that have cameras that record activity and require photo identification from customers. “Crime can happen anywhere,” he said.

The hotel also is expected to generate $310,554 in real estate, personal property and city hotel taxes annually, with $87,857 of that in city revenue, he said.

But residents who spoke at the public hearing were skeptical and repeated concerns that the hotel would contribute to crime along the I-70 corridor, provide new hazards for children and impact their property values.

“Don’t we have a voice in what goes in there?  I thought that’s what St. Peters wants is for the people to be happy,” said Janice Duffner, a subdivision resident who said she gathered more than 170 signatures on a petition earlier opposing the hotel.

Duffner also said the hotel was too close to the school, its four-story height is higher than other buildings in the area and may allow people to look over the subdivision, and the hotel proposal has driven down property values in recent years. “Is this what St. Peters wants, to have flight from a neighborhood?” she asked.

Goss repeated that the hotel guests will not be able to see children entering or leaving the school.  Property values may have dropped because of the recession, he said, and he questioned if the hotel would have an impact on them.

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