A public hearing before the St. Charles County Council on Dec. 4 had the same reaction from attendees as another public hearing on the same topic last month – overwhelming opposition.
Up for discussion was a proposed conditional use permit that would allow a trash transfer station near the Family Arena in southeastern St. Charles County.
Despite much discussion during the two-hour meeting, the council took no action on the permit application. Councilmember Mike Elam [District 3], who serves as its chairman, said the council could take action at its next regular meeting at 7 p.m. on Monday, Dec 18, after more legal discussions and finding of fact in the case. However, he also said a decision may not come until January or even early February.
Hundreds of residents filled a seating area that comprised about half the floor of the Family Arena for the public hearing, which was moved from the old county courthouse at 100 North Third Street in St. Charles to accommodate the anticipated crowd.
More than 25 residents along with St. Charles city and county officials and the permit applicant – Metro Fill Development – filled out speaker cards and spoke during the meeting. Nearly all of those speaking were opposed to the permit, with the exception of representatives from Metro Fill Development.
If approved, the transfer station would be located on 8.07 acres along Arena Parkway and South River Road, south of Friedens Road, near the Family Arena and the Katy Trail.
The county’s approval of the permit would be a step toward allowing the station. The station would be permitted as a conditional use under the present zoning for the site. Metro Fill Development’s proposal’s states that the station would be a site where trash would be consolidated. Trucks hauling collected residential and commercial waste would enter a building on the site where that waste would be transferred to a larger semi-tractor trailer for hauling to a landfill.
The station also would require approval from the county Public Health Department and Missouri Department of Natural Resources before it becomes a reality.
Residents living nearby also packed county’s Planning and Zoning Commission meeting on Nov. 15 and were almost entirely opposed to the permit. The commission voted 9-0 to recommend that the council deny the application. That unanimous denial recommendation means that five of seven councilmembers would have to vote in favor of the permit in order to approve it, rather than approval by a simple majority.
The transfer station would be within 550 feet from townhouses along Montclair Tower Drive on a bluff above the station’s location. Other nearby residential developments include the new River Crossing Apartment complex across Friedens Road from the site.
Residents, on Nov. 15, said they were worried about noise, odor, emissions and large amounts of truck traffic impacting their quality of life. Their comments were similar at the public hearing on Dec. 3. They urged the council to deny the permit.
“But if this comes in, I’m moving my business, everything, out of this county,” said Bob Barks, who lives near the proposed transfer station speaking directly to the council. “This is going to destroy our neighborhood. You have the power, you are the people we voted for, and you are the people we appointed. Do your job.”
Cort Scheider, another resident, told councilmembers that he estimates the area would see a drop in property values by as much as $15 million “right off the bat” if the transfer station is approved. “I have no doubt that this proposal will negatively impact and dampen the appeal of property values in these surrounding areas,” Scheider said.
Andrea Keaton, another resident, said she was worried about traffic, wind bellowing garbage and noise. A college professor from Rolla, she said noise may be high. “Your biggest complaint is going to be the beep, beep, beeping of the trucks when they back up,” Keaton said. “I don’t think, unless you live in the area, you don’t realize how much sound carries.”
John Seigel told the council he had a bit of a personal reason for opposing the station. His son and wife and their son live about a half mile from the station. “If his house value goes down and he loses his job or something because of that, he’s not going to be able to sell his house because of this. He’s going to have to move back in with me,” he said, drawing laughs from the councilmembers and audience.
St. Charles City and County officials also are worried that the Arena Parkway-South River Road corridor, where trucks would travel, connects with attractions such as the Streets of St. Charles, Bangert Island County Park, the Family Arena, the Katy Trail and proposed mixed-use employment at Route 364 near the Arena Parkway.
St. Charles Mayor Sally Faith urged the council to deny the permit citing the smell and that the specific location wasn’t acceptable.
At its Dec. 5 meeting, the St. Charles City Council unanimously approved a resolution opposing the passage of the permit request.
“We feel this is not in the best interest of the city or our residents in the area,” Faith said in a news release from the city on Dec. 6. “The negative aspects that would result from this station being built and operated in this location far outweigh any benefits that would be presented. We stand with our residents who are opposed to this moving forward, and I’m happy the city council voiced [its] official opposition last night.”
St. Charles City Councilmember Vince Ratchford [Ward 3] added, “I have to support what is best for the city and the residents of my ward. And this proposal is not taking into account the residents, businesses and visitors to the area. This is not an appropriate use of this site.”
County Finance Director Bob Schnur, who also manages the county-owned Family Arena, urged denial because the arena’s ventilation system may allow trash odor from the transfer station into the facility. Schnur noted that local governments have allowed limited solid waste activity in the area previously and zoning was needed for that station. But the current time and place now have to be considered, he added.
“It may have been OK in 1993 but we’re in 2017. Now, with everything that has gone on in the immediate area, this is a different area than it was then and this, frankly, is a bad decision for the neighbors of the proposed site.”
Stephen Martin, an attorney representing Metro Fill, told councilmembers before and after the public comment period that Metro Fill’s application for the permit meets and exceeds every standard in the county’s requirements for a solid waste district. He questioned the impact of the station on property values, the Family Arena, the Katy Trail and other parks, and noted that the station is not in the floodplain.
Regarding smells, Martin said the property is 60 feet below the closest subdivision and the prevailing wind is away from the subdivision. The stations are fully enclosed buildings designed to move trash quickly and cleanly and are not landfills, he said. Derrick Standley, a consultant with Metro Fill, agreed.
By law, the facility has to transfer solid waste within 24 hours. Metro Development operates a “clean fill landfill” near the site that accepts “inert and clean materials” as fill including concrete, asphalt, rock, sand, cinder-blocks, brick, clay and uncontaminated soil. Only household waste would be accepted at the proposed transfer station.
Metro Fill officials have said in statements that the stations are needed to serve the growing waste management needed by the county’s growing population.
Martin said a traffic study, submitted to the county is part of public record, suggests that the transfer station would add less than 3 percent to local traffic and cause congestion on South River Road.
But councilmembers questioned Standley about where trash trucks would come from and, once trash was transferred, where they would go. When told the trucks would exit and head south on Arena Parkway possibly to some landfills in St. Louis County, Councilmember Joe Cronin [District 1] said the station was a “regional thing” that affects more than just St. Charles County.
Councilmember Dave Hammond [District 4] said he wasn’t clear about where the trash trucks would come from and where are they going. Elam said Metro Fill officials have not been able to identify the trucks they would use.
“It sounds like to me that this enterprise is like they build it and they will come,” said Councilmember Jack White [District 7].