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Ella’s Place subdivision plan approval appealed

For the past 14 years, 2.67 acres of land at Emge Road and Shoen Morgan Drive have been controversial. For the first 13 years, it was because the land had become an undeveloped eyesore. Then, plans for development kept getting tabled and deadlines extended. 

Dead trees on the undeveloped parcel (John Tremmel August 2019 photo)

Now, the controversy is because the preliminary plat plan for a subdivision named Ella’s Place was approved by the O’Fallon Planning & Zoning Commission (P&Z) on Nov. 5; however, the plan is being met with protest from nearby homeowners due to lot and home sizes not being comparable in scale and design with close by large-lot homes. 

Trustees of the Maryridge subdivision subsequently filed, with the City Council, an appeal of the P&Z approval, citing eight errors.

At the Dec. 10 council meeting, council member Dale Kling (Ward 4) moved “that the appeal of preliminary plat approval of Ella’s Place subdivision be taken under submission, and that then the developer be allowed to file a written response to the allegations set forth in the appeal on or before 5 p.m. on Monday, Dec. 21, and that city staff be requested to prepare a written analysis of the issues raised by the appeal on or before Jan. 4, 2021, and that the matter remain under submission until such time as the council is prepared to take further action.”

Kling’s motion was seconded and passed unanimously by voice vote.

Presumably, the council will review the written submission from the developer and the city staff analysis, and make the decision at its Jan. 14 meeting.

Homeowners in the adjacent Maryridge Subdivision still are anxious to have the land parcel developed to eliminate the eyesore, but their expectation was and is that the subject land will be used in ways similar to the large-lot concept used in the area from its initial development.

Maryridge is a large-lot subdivision with all lots having at least 20,000 square feet and a 40-foot building line. The Ella’s Place plat plan is for seven lots with 10,000 square feet minimums and a 25-foot building line.

Location map for Ella’s Place (Source: City of O’Fallon)

Twice, the developer, Vickie Snyder Enterprises, has received approval of the preliminary plat plan. The initial approval had expired prior to Nov. 5, when P&Z again approved using the 2.67 acres for seven lots with a minimum of 10,000 square feet each, for seven custom homes [no elevations were provided to P&Z]. 

Prior to the P&Z’s vote on Nov. 5, several Maryridge residents had spoken against the Ella’s Place plat plan. They cited O’Fallon’s stated goal to have new development be compatible in scope and design with surrounding development. They also said there appear to be two conflicting ordinances covering the zoning of the subject property [R-1 in one ordinance and R-1 PUD in the other]. They concluded the only way that could happen is due to clerical errors. Based on those and other reasons, they requested that the plat plan be denied.

According to developer Snyder, the trustees of the Maryridge subdivision have filed a lawsuit in circuit court to force the Ella’s Place plans to conform to Maryridge standards. Snyder said she has been trying to work with those trustees, but has not been successful so far. She acknowledged that the case still is active.

During the P&Z discussion, the city attorney said the city is not responsible for enforcing a subdivision’s covenants, conditions and restrictions. That remedy would be in court. The city attorney also said the city is obligated to follow city ordinances and zoning in making decisions.

Then, P&Z voted and approved the plat plan as submitted.

Subsequently, the trustees of the Maryridge subdivision filed their appeal, stating that the P&Z approval decision was incorrect due to eight errors:

  1. The plat does not meet R-1 zoning requirements.
  2. The plat does not meet the requirements of the existing record plat approved by city ordinance 3009.
  3. The plat does not conform to the O’Fallon City Comprehensive Plan requiring scale and design compatible with existing neighborhood character.
  4. The application failed to demonstrate compliance with city code for trees and landscaping.
  5. A preliminary copy of the Trust Indentures/Covenants/Deed Restrictions was not provided, as required by the checklist.
  6. The plat does not accurately show the current topography of the land as required by the checklist.
  7. The plat is identified as a large-lot single-family development, but the approved plat does not meet requirements of a large-lot development.
  8. P&Z applied different standards and requirements to the approval of the plat that they did for approval of the final plan for Maryridge in 1992 and for this parcel in 2006.

O’Fallon’s city code does have provisions for such an appeal. 

The council can decide whether or not to consider the appeal. The council also can decide how to consider the appeal, based only on the existing records of the P&Z decision, or to receive additional evidence as the council deems appropriate under the circumstances. Such evidence could include, for example, claims of errors made in the P&Z process or documents. 

The existing records or the additional written material and evidence then would be discussed by the council in a closed attorney-client meeting, resulting in a written findings, conclusions, and determinations document.

Mid Rivers Newsmagazine had published a detailed story about this land and many of its issues on Aug. 14, 2019.

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