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Turtle Creek residents persistent in opposition to high density rental units

Residents at O’Fallon Council Meeting wait to speak during citizen comments [John Tremmel photo]

As previously reported in Mid Rivers Newsmagazine, Missouri National Golf Links LP has pulled its application for rezoning and a site plan for high density rental units [Fairways at Turtle Creek] proposed for land currently occupied by a golf facility at 1301 Crooked Stick Drive. Noting that change, the agenda for the Aug. 22 O’Fallon City Council meeting clearly listed Bill No. 7111 and its public hearing as being withdrawn by the applicant. Mayor Bill Hennessy, speaking at the meeting, also made it clear that the bill had been pulled. Regardless, eight residents attended and spoke about the bill during the citizen comments portion of the agenda.

Seven of those residents spoke for 5 minutes each, in opposition to high density rental units, stating that they expected the plan to come back again in some similar form. One resident spoke for 5 minutes in support of the proposal.

John Mertzlufft, John Israel, Cara Francis, Tom Green, Valerie Whitney, Larry Whitney and Leslie Blalock are residents within Turtle Creek or in adjacent subdivisions. Each spoke from his or her personal perspective but the common theme was that high density rental units, such as the previously proposed Fairways at Turtle Creek, do not fit within the Turtle Creek community.

Francis described “scare tactics” being used by the land owner, whom she said is going “door to door” talking about how the Turtle Creek golf course [The Falls] “might have to shut down if the rental units are not built and are not able to provide revenue to put back into the golf course.” She asked the council to consider what would happen if the rental unit development were not profitable – the golf course would shut down anyway?

Valerie Whitney expressed concern that “many rental apartments already have been built in the area” and asked “how many hundreds more already are being built at The Meadows nearby?” She said she worried that with so many being built, “they would compete with each other, causing lower rents and perhaps causing them to fail.”

Blalock said that homeowners associations “usually do not agree about everything, but more that 100 people had signed a petition to the council to not do this [allow high density rentals].”  He said that “the developer’s stated concern about a decline in the number of people wanting to buy and the increase in number who want to rent is not true.” He went on to describe a recent sale in which a villa in Turtle Creek went on the market and was sold within hours as an example that property sales and ownership demand “are not declining.”

Unlike the other residents speaking, Don Gibbons explained that he had discussed the Fairways at Turtle Creek with Ed Schultz, the original developer 24 years ago of the Fall Golf course and the practice facility, and the property owner who now wants to develop the Fairways at Turtle Creek.

“There is a lot of misleading information being communicated that tends to start everyone out with a negative view about that development,” Gibbons said. He clarified that this “misleading information typically talks about ‘apartment units,’ and the Fairways at Turtle Creek are not apartment units. They are single-family rental homes.”

Gibbons said Schultz “has always been an honorable man with integrity and has done a wonderful job with the golf course for 24 years.” He said that he wound up at Turtle Creek because he “used to live at Cherry Hills in St. Louis County, and that golf course was shut down, bulldozed and converted into a subdivision.” He added that he “bailed out and moved to Turtle Creek.” He also cited Hawk Ridge, “which used to be an 18-hole course and was reduced to nine holes” before the property was reclaimed for more housing. Gibbon’s message was that golf courses do indeed fail, and whatever can be done to prevent that is a good thing. He summarized that he is “supportive of Ed Schultz and believes he will continue to do a great job working with the city on this development.”

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