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Discussions, deliberations continue regarding Missouri Bluffs development

Those opposed to a proposed rezoning and concept plan to allow a large housing development near the Missouri Bluffs Golf Course got a bit of a rebuke from a St. Charles County councilmember after two hours of review at the council’s early April meeting.

The annexation bill and plan were given a first reading on April 9, but the council did not vote on the bill that evening.

County Councilmember Joe Brazil [District 2] said he was concerned that the evidence provided by people opposed to the development didn’t provide more legal reasons for opposing it.

The rezoning application seeks to rezone a largely tree-covered, 386.52-acre tract south of the Missouri Research Park, west of Interstate 64, and north of the Missouri River near Weldon Spring and Weldon Spring Heights. The rezoning would be from floodway fringe overlay and agricultural to R1- A planned unit development overlay.

In February, the developers – Missouri Bluffs Golf Joint Ventures and NT Home Builders – agreed to amend an earlier submitted rezoning request and development plan. The University of Missouri, which owns the ground, has indicated that it would sell the property to the developers with the approval of an acceptable rezoning and concept plan.

A change in zoning classification to R1-A overlay would limit multi-family dwelling units. The multi-phased proposal includes 289 detached, single-family homes on 190.94 acres and up to 73 single-family attached dwellings on over 7.26 acres. That’s down from the original 315 single-family homes and from 120 multi-family units.

Missouri Bluffs Golf Course

The existing 18-hole golf course occupies 184.47 acres.

The property has been zoned agricultural since 1959.

Brazil said he was perplexed about how to vote on the controversial development proposal, which has already undergone hours of review and public comment before both the council and the county planning and zoning commission. He said the “perplexing place” he was at now is figuring out what is the right thing to do and not make a decision based on emotion because people don’t want to see development in the area.

At the commission’s March 21 meeting and at the council’s April 9 meeting, nearby residents largely spoke against the rezoning and plan, questioning the loss of scenic property near the Katy Trail, the amount of new traffic the development might generate on steep and narrow roads, potential land use conflicts with a Zoltek Industries manufacturing facility and a Duckett Creek Sewer District treatment plant nearby , the need to upgrade the intersections of Research Park Drive and Research Park Circle, and whether it was proper for the university to sell the land.

Brad Goss, an attorney for NRT Home Builders, noted at both meetings that the concept plan for the development would “work with the land” to minimize impacts and incorporate measures to protect the local environment including landscaping that utilizes native plants.

After four hours of debate and discussion, the commission voted 8-1 against recommending the rezoning and concept plan be approved by the council. Commissioners said they liked the plan but that it was the wrong piece of property for the development. They cited the amount of opposition as an indication for their decision.

On April 9, in addition to public comments for and against the rezoning and concept plan, the county council quizzed the developers, opponents and county staff regarding various aspects of the plan and the property’s geographic relationship to the nearby August A. Busch Wildlife area and the Katy Trail.

Brazil said a lot of the letters received by councilmembers presented “a false narrative” because the development wasn’t near the trail or the August A. Busch Wildlife area.

The university, as the landowner, has rights, Brazil said. The county can’t make the land unusable or lower its property value to zero. “So this council has to look at the law too, it certainly can’t rule on emotion,” he said. “So it puts us in a trick bag.

“I’m concerned the argument wasn’t on point for interference with the Katy Trail and Busch Wildlife area.”

Councilmember John White [District 7] asked Dan Burkhardt, a prominent opponent who spoke before both the planning and zoning commission and the council, whether there was a development plan that was acceptable.

“I think there are types of development that would be acceptable here but certainly not 350 homes and 2 miles of road on this small bit of land,” Burkhardt said.

Burkhardt said the University of Missouri has the capability of coming up with a more sustainable, acceptable plan. He said the area near the bluffs is unique and noted that areas to the west along Hwy. 94 and west of I-64/Hwy. 40 to the Daniel Boone Home have been “sacrosanct and preserved.” He lauded the county’s role in ensuring that action.

Burkhardt said the Bluffs has more value as a conservation corridor, as a lifestyle choice and tourism destination than from intrusive, intensive suburban development. He said the developers’ plans are “highly problematic,” would degrade the connector trail that the Great Rivers Greenway [the regional public  developer] has put in place to connect with the Katy Trail, and would “create noise pollution” and
“all that goes with residential development.”

He called actions that the developers proposed to limit the development’s impact “greenwashing” and said the project is “cloaked” in environmental terms or language.

No action was taken on April 9; however, a vote could come at the council’s next scheduled meeting on April 30.

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