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Discussions about high density rentals at Turtle Creek postponed

O’Fallon City Council meeting, July 25 [John Tremmel photo]

The public hearing and first reading of Bill No. 7111, originally scheduled for the July 25 council meeting were tabled until the Aug. 22 council meeting.

The bill would rezone a tract of land at 1301 Crooked Stick Drive and approve an area plan for 182 rental units on 23.28 acres, a density of 8.02 units per acre, to be named “Fairways at Turtle Creek.”  A golf practice facility is operated on the land today.

The postponement was at the request of the developer/applicant, Missouri National Golf Links LP.

After the postponement vote, Mayor Bill Hennessy announced that the citizen comments portion of the traditional agenda could be used to speak about Bill No. 7111, but only if the speaker was not going to be able to attend the Aug. 22 meeting.

Nearby homeowner John Israel spoke, taking exception with developer’s comments at the July 18 Planning & Zoning Commission meeting, during which the developer said this type of development works well in Seattle.  Israel said he called people he knows in Seattle, and they indicated things are “not so great” there.

Turtle Creek homeowner Tom Green said he agreed with tabling the bill until Aug. 22. He said this has been going on for seven months, so what was another month to learn things will work out. Green said he will be looking for financial information about the golf course and why the new rental income is needed.  He said he wants to “see the cash flow of the golf course, three years of tax returns, and three years of financials.” He also suggested that if the situation ended badly, the city should “issue bonds and buy the golf course,” and then “operate it for the good of the community.”

No other comments regarding the topic arose during citizen comments.

Council member Dale Kling [Ward 3] said he supported tabling the bill until Aug. 22, for five reasons.  First, three city council members were absent/excused from the July 25 meeting.  Second, he said he still was not sure what is best for all parties and for use of this property. Discussions, he said, have broken down between the property owner and the surrounding homeowners.  Third, he said he wants time to talk to all of the stakeholders including the Turtle Creek Homeowners Association board. Fourth, he said he wants city staff to tell the council what the current most realistic economic and market dynamics are for the property and what other viable uses could be there. Fifth, Kling cited an article published in the July 22 Wall Street Journal describing what happens when a golf course shuts down at the center of a golf course community. Real examples and their impacts are outlined in the article, he said. He had copies available to those who wanted them.

Kling closed his comments by saying he wants to see whatever is done with the driving range property be attractive with a buffer along Mexico Road and result in an ongoing vibrant Turtle Creek area. He said the Falls Golf Course winds through the entire community and is vital to the area.

Council member Debbie Cook [Ward 5] acknowledged the number of residents who came to yet another meeting to discuss their concerns and views, who have had their lives on hold for months, and now must wait again for another meeting on Aug. 22.  She mentioned one lady who had taken the time to come back from vacation for this meeting. Cook said the council owes it to the people to make a decision, because “their lives have been on hold too long.”  She also encouraged the homeowners to “pack the council chamber on Aug. 22 with a great turnout.”  Her comments received significant applause.

Council member Dr. Jim Ottomeyer [Ward 4] had initiated the agenda change. He said the tabling was appropriate and clarified that he wants to make sure all considerations and concerns get addressed from all sides. He urged homeowners to reach out to the Falls Golf Course owner Ed Schultz again, to discuss other possibilities that would be acceptable to all parties, in order to build something that would increase community value and not reduce it. He further urged all parties to find a workable compromise.  Ottomeyer confirmed that the council is listening, and recommended a big turnout for the Aug. 22 council meeting.

Mid Rivers Newsmagazine published a story on July 22 with the details of the proposal and public comments at the July 17 Planning & Zoning Commission meeting. That article can be found here.

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