The soybeans are lush and green in a large field north of the intersection of Feise and Bryan roads. The location could have been a Walmart Neighborhood Market that would now be providing food to nearby residents and sales tax revenue to Dardenne Prairie. But that wasn’t to be.
Walmart Stores Inc. backed away from the property last July after a long debate over its plans to build the grocery store on the site. The company first broached the idea of a store on 6.25 acres of a 15.79-acre portion of the tract, commonly known as the Bopp property, in 2016. Those plans fell through, but in February 2017, Walmart proposed the store again.
The 15.79 acres is part of the 86.5 acres, owned by Cora Bopp Family Limited Partnership. The city’s Board of Aldermen approved a rezoning change to C-2 planned unit development with conditional uses for the Walmart store. But ultimately, Walmart walked away from its plans.
Now, new development proposals are emerging that envision a possible a mix of commercial and residential development on what still are farmers’ fields.
In June, the city of Dardenne Prairie received a rezoning and planned unit development request for about 68.4 acres at 1575 Bryan Road located in the northwest corner of the intersection of Feise and Bryant roads. While that request is being withdrawn, Dardenne Prairie officials expect another proposal that may encompass 86.5 acres of property already zoned commercial and possibly more land nearby.
Dardenne Prairie Mayor David Zucker said he anticipates a proposal for the property this fall.
“I anticipate what we will see is residential development and a smaller portion of the tract reserved for commercial development,” Zucker said.
At least one issue that may have been a factor in prompting Walmart to back out remains to be resolved for any future development of that portion of the tract. Curb cuts off Bryan Road that would allow an entrance and a roadway on the property are still needed, according to Zucker and Gary Feder, an attorney for the Bopp Family Limited Partnership.
Feise Road is in Dardenne Prairie; however, the Bryan Road right-of-way is controlled by O’Fallon. Each city controls the road access off their roads.
Zucker said earlier this year that if there had not had been so much difficulty in getting access to Bryan Road, the Walmart store might have been under construction.
Feder said changes in leadership at Walmart and Amazon’s acquisition of Whole Foods, another national grocery chain, and the lack of curb cuts for a road into the development off Bryan Road may have been factors in deciding whether to open more Walmart Neighborhood Market grocery stores around the country. The store is smaller than Walmart Supercenters and competing supermarkets.
The Dardenne Prairie store would have been the third Walmart Neighborhood Market opened in St. Charles County – two are located in St. Peters.
Since the Walmart decision, there have not been any new talks between the two cities and the partnership. “If you hear something give me a call,” Zucker said. “The line when dead last year.”
The expected plans may involve 20 to 30 acres and require an access road would make it attractive for possible tenants. Feder anticipates future talks with O’Fallon officials. He said he has not been involved in plans for residential development which may occur on the western part of the Bopp property. However, he said the partnership “is in the process of putting together a plan for the commercial part of the development.”
The curb cut and access road are key to the development, Feder said. “You can’t reasonably develop that property if you only have access to Feise,” he said.
O’Fallon has concerns that the development may require new traffic signalization and widening of Bryan, Feder said, but developers did provide a detailed traffic study last year that addressed those questions. He said the next step is to show O’Fallon that approvals by Dardenne Prairie have been made. “We want to go back and get our ducks in a row with Dardenne Prairie,” Feder said.
Tom Drabelle, communication’s director for O’Fallon, said the city has a similar position – they want to see what is being proposed and if it has the blessing of Dardenne Prairie. He anticipates that talks between all three parties will resume.
Dardenne Prairie officials are hopeful that new commercial development may add needed sales tax revenue to the city’s coffers. The Walmart store was set to provide as much as $300,000 annually, according to a city consultant.
“It’s too nice a parcel to lie in soybeans and corn forever. I do expect it to be developed,” Zucker said.