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Sparks fly at County Council meeting over rezoning, water tower issues

At a heavily attended meeting last week, the St. Charles County Council debated both zoning changes and affirming a Board of Zoning Adjustment decision to grant a building permit to the Missouri-American Water Company for a 140-foot water tower at 530 Knaust Road. The measures brought out a large, and generally hostile, crowd that offered spirited opposition to the proposed bills.

The meeting began in a normal fashion, with the invocation and pledge of allegiance. The only oddity was the very large crowd, which filled the assembly room and forced some spectators to stand for the entire meeting.

The council welcomed new St. Charles County Police Chief Kurt L. Frisz, who will assume his new role on March 12. Frisz, the former chief of police in Wentzville, gratefully accepted the congratulations of the council and spectators.

The meeting grew contentious when business passed to the “Bills For Introduction” stage, and the clerk read into the record Bill No. 4815, a measure to rezone land at Meinershagen Road to South Point Prairie Road from agricultural to single-family residential. The bill, sponsored by council member Joe Brazil [District 2], was hotly opposed by many citizens who argued that they had lived in the immediate area for years and liked things the way they had always been.

Other speakers conceded that growth in the Wentzville area was inevitable, but that growth should be responsible and well managed, which they argued would not occur if Bill No. 4815 passed council muster in its current iteration. Some of the critics cited a worsening of current problems with erosion and drainage, others suggested the problem of trying to place too many people in a relatively small area.

Among those who argued in favor of the zoning was Dale Bax, an attorney representing the current property owners.

Bax and others suggested that those opposed to the measure were acting with churlish intentions, by attempting to stop others from benefiting from the fruits of county life that they, themselves, were enjoying. This brought an audible grumble from some of those who opposed the bill.

The council seemed unconvinced by the proponent’s arguments in favor of the bill. Council member Joe Cronin [District 1] opposed the measure, and Brazil, who introduced the bill, said in the hearing that he is now leaning against the proposal.

The council will take up this topic for a vote on Feb. 24.

The council then took up Bill No. 4816 to affirm the Board of Zoning Adjustment decision on an application by the Missouri American Water Company to construct a 140-foot water tower at 530 Knaust Road, near the county-O’Fallon borderline. The proposal was sponsored by council member Mike Elam [District 3].

This, too, quickly became a contentious issue, with eight speakers opposing the application and two supporting it. Those who opposed the project did so largely on the basis that the tower would be an eyesore and would destroy the ambiance of their neighborhood. Others complained that the project had come together too quickly and that they suspected some devious shenanigans afoot. Another speaker stated that the project could result in a decline of property values and wondered whether the project’s approval would include a tax reduction for residents of the area.

Speaking in favor of the tower were Ryan Roberts, assistant fire chief of Cottleville, and Rene Lawrence, Missouri American Water’s project manager for the proposed development.

Roberts stated that local fire districts supported the proposal because access to water needed to be protected and upgraded. He suggested that the expected growth in the particular area that the tower would serve justified the measure completely.

Lawrence warned of an end to county growth if infrastructure projects, like the water tower, never began.

The council members seemed unconvinced by the proponents’ arguments and suggested Missouri American Water consider other sites for the project. Cronin asked Lawrence whether the city of O’Fallon might be a better location since they had no height restrictions for water towers. Lawrence said she could not answer that question since her authority did not extend beyond the proposed development.

The council will take up the issue again on Feb. 24.

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