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Lake Saint Louis may try to address ‘disconnect’ among residents

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Lake Saint Louis officials and residents may be moving toward a goal in the city’s recently approved comprehensive plan – improving communication between Lake Saint Louis residents who can use major recreational amenities such as the two community lakes and residents who can’t.

The large recreational amenities, particularly the 650-acre main community lake, are private and managed by the Lake Saint Louis Community Association, a homeowners association.

Homes that fall outside the association boundaries, which largely include the original community surrounding the two community lakes, can’t use the private amenities. The association includes about 8,600 residents who pay annual dues to support the amenities. However, the city’s overall population has increased to nearly 15,000 and more residents are moving into areas beyond the association’s boundary lines as new single-family housing continues to be built.

During the development of the city’s comprehensive plan, adopted by the city in December 2017 and developed as a guide to future city development, the planning committee heard about a disconnect between residents who are association members and those who are non-members. Some city residents were confused about the association’s role and the restrictions on the use of private amenities that they say lead to the perception of a general separation between those who live within association boundaries and those who don’t.

The plan notes that this isn’t an easy topic to address. “There is a question of whether a comprehensive plan should even address this issue at all,” the plan notes. “However, there is much to be gained from improving community cohesion. By contrast, a community that focuses too much on its differences can have a difficult time coming together to reach its full potential.”

Frank McLaughlin, chairman of the city’s image advisory committee, came before the city’s Board of Aldermen during a March 5 work session to discuss how his committee could address improving an aspect of  community cohesion. “A cohesive community, where all residents are identified as part of a single community,” is identified as a “core value” of the comprehensive plan. The image advisory committee works with improving the city’s branding.

“The idea would be to unify all the communities within the city of Lake Saint Louis – CA [Community Association] and non-CA, so we’re working together for the mutual benefit of the city,” McLaughlin said. “The way we were thinking of approaching that was through the homeowners associations’ leadership.”

Many subdivisions in the city have individual associations that manage amenities within those subdivisions. McLaughlin suggested gathering association leaders’ emails to begin communications, possibly leading to submitting a survey to them about questions residents have about the association.

“A number of people don’t have perspectives on what the Community Association is,” McLaughlin said. “Eventually, there could be some kind of forum where homeowners association officers could meet to discuss the issue and review the history of the association and learn about it.”

Aldermen questioned some aspects of what McLaughlin suggested but didn’t strongly object. Alderman John Pellerito [Ward 3] said some of the subdivision homeowners associations’ boards of directors are not active and don’t meet on a regular basis.

Pellerito asked what the committee would do with the information it receives. McLaughlin said any recommendations from officers of the homeowners associations would go to the aldermen for action. He noted that residents had perceptions about the Lake Saint Louis Community Association’s relationship with the city.

“I’m kind of hoping that the discussion will eliminate the perceptions,” he said.

Alderman Karen Vennard [Ward 2] said the city and the committee have to be specific about the services the city provides, such as police, code enforcement, parks and courts.

“I’m hoping that this doesn’t become a forum – and we’ve heard this before – where people are wanting the city to champion them to get them in the CA,” Vennard said.

McLaughlin said it would be communicated up front that there are Community Association residents and non-Community Association residents and that may not change. “We’re not all becoming one,” he said.

Alderman Gary Torlina [Ward 3] noted that there are both image advisory committee members and aldermen who are active in the Community Association and who can respond to questions about the association, what it can provide and its history.

McLaughlin said the committee’s efforts might develop an email communication mechanism that could help aldermen if they have to broadcast information widely, but he wasn’t sure about the need for regular meetings beyond an initial meeting.

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