The siren’s call of the Wentzville School District, with its tentacles reaching into O’Fallon, Dardenne Prairie and Lake Saint Louis, is luring homebuilders and home buyers into western St. Charles County.
One developer leads the charge
In the last few weeks, major residential developments have been announced or received significant approvals that will allow them to move forward in Dardenne Prairie, O’Fallon and Lake Saint Louis. All are by one major homebuilder, Payne Family Homes. The company also has other developments under review, being built or about to be submitted to those municipalities and others in St. Charles County. But Payne is not alone; other homebuilders also are active in the area.
In Dardenne Prairie, the city’s Board of Aldermen voted 4-1 on Oct. 18 to approve adjustment of the single-family residential zoning and a planned unit development [PUD] plan to guide the development of 16.7 acres north of the Route 364 roundabout exit at Bryan Road. Aldermen Blake Nay [Ward 2] voted against the rezoning.
Fifty-one single-family homes would be developed on the tract, according to plans submitted by Payne. Mayor David Zucker said the company must submit a final plan for the site. The property was one of two tracts voluntarily annexed into the city in March.
Meanwhile, in Lake Saint Louis, a public hearing was held Oct. 16 on a zoning amendment and PUD sought by Payne for a proposed single-family home development on 131 lots to be known as Port Calais subdivision. The hearing was continued to the next regular board meeting scheduled for Nov. 6. Payne wants to develop the subdivision on a 43.8-acre tract at 4009 Intersttate 64/Hwy. 61 between Oak Bluff Drive and Freymuth Road.
City Administrator Paul Markworth said city staff has met with Payne officials to review plans that feature single-family villa homes along with amenities such as a trail and small lake with a fountain. A public meeting is planned for Nov. 9 at the Cuivre Electric Cooperative offices at 8357 Hwy. N. At that time, Payne officials will discuss the new subdivision with residents of Hawk Ridge on the Green, the Estates at Hawk Ridge and Heritage at Hawks Ridge subdivisions.
Earlier this month, Payne announced plans for a mixed-use development on 260 acres in O’Fallon, with plans for retail and office space developments, along with 400 single-family homes. The $400 million development, known as The Streets of Caledonia, is to be built on largely undeveloped property at the northwest corner of Interstate 64 and Route DD, just across the interstate from Winghaven. THF 40 DD Development LLC, a company associated with developers Michael Staenberg and Stan Kroenke, largely owns the property. However, the men have been involved in litigation that has delayed development of the property for more than a decade.
Initial plans call for 80-acres of office space and 25-acres of retail development in addition to the single-family homes. Included is a grocery store, pharmacy, urgent care center and other retail space. A Payne news release indicated that construction could begin next year with the project taking as long as five years to finish. But O’Fallon officials say Payne and other entities involved with the project have not yet submitted development plans as part of the city’s review process.
Tom Drabelle, the city’s communications director, said Oct. 13 that the site is one of the largest undeveloped tracts in the southern part of the city. It is across I-64 from MasterCard and Citigroup and east of the city’s new 55-acre O’Day Park, on which is set to begin construction soon.
The all-encompassing Wentzville School District
Common denominators for builders and buyers alike include the Wentzville School District and the area’s proximity to Route 364, which extends from Lake Saint Louis to Maryland Heights in St. Louis County.
Even before the final phases of the route’s extension, from I-64 to Mid Rivers Mall Drive, opened in 2014, local officials and residents speculated on the economic and other impacts it would have on central and western St. Charles County. One impact is home buyers who are drawn to the area by its new roads and a growing school district, whose enrollment shows no signs of slowing.
Since 2001, the Wentzville School District has grown by 600 or more students a year, making it the fastest growing school district in Missouri. Today, it’s the 11th largest school district in the state.
Mary LaPak, the district’s chief communications officer, said the district could be in the top five for size in the next three or four years. By 2026, district officials are projecting enrollment reaching as high as 23,180 students. The district’s current enrollment is about 16,382 students.
Cyndie Roche, vice president of sales and marketing for Payne Family Homes, described the Wentzville School District as “a huge draw” and “a huge piece of land.” The district takes in portions of four municipalities – Dardenne Prairie, Lake Saint Louis, Foristell and O’Fallon – and all of Wentzville.
Roche said the school district is “probably the No. 1 thing we talk about with potential buyers.” Many of those buyers have young families; others are retired but looking to stay close to their children, Roche said.
“My personal opinion is that when we get opportunities in that corridor, we do everything we can to make those opportunities work out for everyone involved,” Roche said. The Wentzville School District and the O’Fallon zip code is “a magical combination,” she added.
The proposed The Streets of Caledonia subdivision may bear out that description, offering the best of all worlds.
“You look at all the press that O’Fallon gets and how well respected it is as a municipality and then you add that the Wentzville schools are all pretty new and they’re growing, and they have a great reputation whether it be academics, sports or special schooling,” Roche said.
It’s a siren’s song that’s hard to ignore.
Easy access on new roads
I-64 and Route 364, with its possible further extension west, along with commerce already in western St. Charles and with more coming, add to the attractiveness of the area, Roche said. She said Route 364 often is used more by commuters and less by the heavy over-the-road tractor trailers that clog Interstate 70.
“So when you think about where you want your family driving, where you want to live, what kind of traffic you want to be near, Route 364, in and of itself, is made for residents where I-70 is really geared toward cross-the-state traffic.
“Route 364 has a much different traffic pattern. People recognize that and accommodate their living arrangement around that.”
In a previous job, Roche worked for an international bank and with clients in a number of states who were looking at growth areas. The best growth, she said, was in markets where there were good roads and transportation.
“Those people wanted amenities, they wanted schools, they wanted a nightlife, they wanted arts and culture, and they wanted easy access to their shopping.
“If you just take a quick snapshot of Wentzville, Lake Saint Louis and that Route 364 corridor and Hwy. N, its check, check, check,” Roche said.
A ‘beautiful, little oasis’
Payne and other developers have been, and continue to be, drawn to the city of Wentzville.
Doug Forbeck, the city’s community development director, said the city may not have a lot of residential growth potential in the I-64 and Route 364 areas because parts of those areas are outside city limits. The city also has a growth boundary agreement with Lake Saint Louis near Duello and Prospect roads that limits annexations of unincorporated land there. But Forbeck said more single-family housing permits are issued in Wentzville than in any other municipality in St. Charles County.
“We’re looking at 650 to 700 homes [being added] to the city on a yearly basis, which generates about 1,900 new residents to the community,” Forbeck said.
That pattern is holding true so far this year. Forbeck said that the city had issued 576 housing permits as of Oct. 23 – 512 permits for single-family units and 64 multi-family permits.
“There’s also a lot of roadway construction activity that will feed into the growth of the community,” he said, particularly along Hwy. 61, where new interchanges are planned.
Roche said the Wentzville area may see its population double with land still available, businesses moving in and highway work continuing.
At first glance, Payne seems to have a lock on the area, but Roche said that competition among homebuilders remains high in the area.
“It is really about who can get to the landowner first or who the landowners contact first,” she said.
Roche said homebuilders still remember what happened during the recession, starting in 2007, and that “nobody wants to put too much land in their land bank and not be prepared.”
“But I do see everybody recognizing that there is this little microcosm of a submarket called Wentzville that reaches its tentacles into other submarkets like O’Fallon and Lake Saint Louis and together they are creating a beautiful, little oasis just right outside the city of St. Louis,” she said. “I think we’re going to be here a while.”