On Monday, Sept. 30, the St. Charles County Council, in a decidedly understated vote and in stark contrast to the highly contentious nature of the earlier meetings on the issue, gave final approval to the Missouri Bluffs development.
The council voted 5-1 in favor of a 22-month-old proposal offered by Greg Whitaker of NT Builders LLC that would build as many as 221 residences near the Katy Trail. The proposal would allow for as many as 161 single-family homes, and potentially another 60 multi-family homes at the edge of the Missouri Bluffs Golf Club, off of Interstate 64. Council member Mike Elam [District 3], who noted strong opposition to the plan, voted against the proposal.
The vote came five weeks after the issue had been tabled, following the council meeting of Aug. 26. That particular meeting was marked by a large crowd and spirited discussion of the proposal, which repeatedly has drawn the ire of environmentalists, trail hikers and local residents since its introduction in November 2017. Spokespersons for those groups argued that the nature of the area will change irrevocably, and for the worse, if the proposal is allowed. During the Aug. 26 meeting, council member Joe Cronin [District 1] suggested tabling the issue to allow for more study. The council voted accordingly.
With the affirmative vote on Sept. 30, the project now will move forward.
After the vote authorizing the proposal, council member Joe Brazil [District 2] gave a full summation of the issue. He noted that the developer had accepted many conditions and restrictions on the original proposal. He praised the designers for its flexibility and willingness to consider and act upon legitimate objections to the plan. Brazil also noted that the now-approved proposal will contain only 30 acres of land, allowing the vast majority of acreage to remain untouched and undisturbed.
County Executive Steve Ehlmann saluted the council for its work on the highly charged issue that dates back nearly two years. He said everyone involved on both sides had been given a thorough hearing and the opportunity to make their respective cases. He stated that he had recently discussed the matter with representatives of the University of Missouri, and other interested parties, and that no one wanted to go back over the same ground again, much less to start from scratch.
Ehlmann finished his statement by thanking the council members for their hard work on the issue and announcing that the county had proposed to buy roughly 300 acres of the land not currently scheduled for development. Some of the land would be leased to the Missouri Bluffs Golf Club, while the rest would be reserved for a St. Charles County park.
The actual announcement of this transaction came down on the morning of Oct. 1 in the form of a county press release announcing that the county will purchase 286 acres of Missouri Bluffs property for $2 million, with 200 acres remaining under lease to the golf club. The club will pay $100,000 annually for the 73 years remaining under the terms of its old lease agreement. Should the golf club relinquish its rights under the leasing agreement, the county would be free to determine the best future use of the property. The remaining 86 acres of woodland will be owned, maintained and managed by the St. Charles County Parks & Recreation Department.
In his message announcing the deal, Ehlmann stated, “We are pleased that the university has accepted our proposal. This provides us with a unique opportunity to ensure the preservation and conservation of this area for generations to come.”