When O’Fallon Planning & Zoning (P&Z) Commission approved a preliminary plat plan by applicant V. Schneider Enterprises, LTD on Aug. 3, 2006, the land was to become the site of Maryridge Estates, a proposed subdivision with five lots. Those five lots were a re-subdivision of Lot 1A of the original Maryridge large-lot subdivision that had been fully built out except for that parcel.
It stayed Maryridge Estates when P&Z approved a one-year extension requested by Schneider on Aug. 2, 2007.
It was still Maryridge Estates when Schneider submitted another preliminary plat plan for a five-lot subdivision at the April 5, 2018, P&Z meeting. At Schneider’s request, the item was tabled at the P&Z meetings on April 5, May 3, and June 7, 2018.
At the P&Z meeting on July 5, 2018, the proposal was changed to include seven lots and referred to by Schneider as Ella Estates.
At the P&Z meeting on Aug. 1, 2019, Schneider again asked for another one-year extension, which P&Z again approved until August 2020.
The extension granted by P&Z on Aug. 1 appeared on the O’Fallon city council meeting agenda for Aug. 8 as a “Committee and Commission Reports” item. As a result, three residents of homes surrounding the proposed Ella Estates property attended the city council meeting to speak against the one-year extension, delivering their concerns during the citizen comments portion of the meeting.
Dwight Strother and Fred Vorwerk are two homeowners in the original Maryridge subdivision, located on Shoen Morgen Drive, behind and around the still-proposed Ella Estates property. [Ella Estates still is a re-subdivision of Lot 1A of Maryridge]. Both men expressed their displeasure at the 12 years of delays in getting Maryridge/Ella Estates built, especially since the land already had been cleared, and now over many years has become a tangled mess of overgrown bushes and grass, and dead trees. They mentioned a severe water drainage problem because Emge Road improvements in recent years have included curbs and storm sewers that drain water into the downhill part of the proposed Ella Estates, where the plat plan includes a water retention and mitigation area, yet to be built. Water instead overflows down and across the planned subdivision and across the existing street into other yards.
Strother and Vorwerk further said that when leaves are off the trees and bushes in late fall and winter, the property is especially unsightly when looking out from the back and sides of their homes. They said the originally planned subdivision sign still can be seen, but it is down flat, on the ground and in the weeds. The two also said the property had code violations for several years that have not been resolved.
Homeowner Jerry Davis lives on Emge Road immediately adjacent to the subject property. He reinforced what Strother and Vorwerk had said, and also expressed disappointment and concern about how the latest extension happened at P&Z without any notice to interested homeowners. Davis said “waiting 12 years” to have unsightly property improved is unconscionable, and he urged the council to take action “to stop the extension.”After hearing the three residents speak, Mayor Bill Hennessy clarified that the Ella Estates plat plan one-year extension was only a notification to the council as part of a report and not something on which the council would vote. Council member Debbie Cook [Ward 5] responded by saying she knows about the water problems, fallen trees, derelict sign and stray animals on the property. She asked if anything can be done by the council to address the surrounding homeowners’ concerns and stop the one-year extension.
City attorney Kevin O’Keefe clarified that per city statutes, the power to grant extensions of this type resides entirely with P&Z and that the city council does not have the authority to override those decisions. That fact was a surprise, frustration and disappointment for some members of the council as well as the three homeowners because it was clear there was nothing the council could do.
Hennessy asked planning director David Woods if code enforcement is pursuing code violations with the property owner. Woods replied, “Yes, those are legal matters that take time.” The mayor then asked that code enforcement proceed with haste. Woods agreed.