Jim Terry has announced plans to resign his District 7 seat on the Jefferson County Council, effective at the end of the month.
Terry, 78, of Cedar Hill said his growing frustration with the council’s inability to get things done led to his decision to resign.
He is in the middle of his second four-year term on the council. The seat will come up for election in 2022.
He said his last day as a councilman will be May 31, to allow his fellow members time to appoint a replacement.
In his April 30 resignation letter, Terry cited his public service since he moved to the county in 2000, including leading the Hwy. MM-W Citizens Task Force and with the Peace Pantry.
He said he wants to make a difference, but over the last few months, he doesn’t feel like he’s been able to get anything accomplished as a councilman.
“This has been something that’s been building for months,” Terry said. “It’s been very, very hard to get anything done, and that’s been very frustrating.”
In particular, he said, he has been weary that the county still isn’t adequately funding enforcement of county code issues, such as derelict buildings, derelict vehicles and junk left on property, particularly in areas that have been affected by flooding.
“Those are by far the complaints I get most often,” Terry said. “I’m told it takes $10,000 to $20,000 per property to clean it up. Some of us have been agitating for an increased budget for many months. We get promises.”
Terry noted that a recently approved budget amendment allotted only $20,000 to remediate issues across the county for the year.
“I abstained on that because it didn’t do anything to make me feel better that issues were going to be resolved,” he said. “I get so many complaints, and it’s frustrating that the only thing I can tell people is there isn’t the money to do anything.”
Terry also said he has been upset over the lack of action to update the county’s master plan for development. The county has been operating under a plan approved in 2000.
“This is a big thing because it tells everyone what we want to go where,” he said. “You’re supposed to get public input on a master plan so you have something of a consensus on how you want to direct development.
“The one we have now is pretty much wide open. In my district, pretty much two-thirds of it is in either the primary or secondary growth areas. I don’t believe that’s what people want. When they were doing the surveys for the 2000 master plan, a lot of the people said they preferred living in Jefferson County first for the lack of crime and second, because of the rural nature and the privacy.
“But what we ended up with doesn’t reflect that, and it’s bad for us as council members because we don’t have any real direction from a master plan, and it’s not good for our planning staff either. So what we end up with is deciding what won’t get us in a lawsuit we probably will lose,” he said.
County Executive Dennis Gannon said he believes progress is being made regarding those issues.
“I guess we’re not moving fast enough for some of the council members.”
The final straw, Terry said, came at the April 26 meeting, during a hearing on a rezoning case that involved a proposed 263-home subdivision on 84.2 acres in the 5600 block of Bear Creek Road in House Springs to be called Bear Ridge.
The Planning and Zoning Commission, which advises the council on rezoning matters, had recommended denial of the plan proposed by McBride Berra Land Co. LLC of Chesterfield.
After a debate, the council ordered a limited public hearing to get additional testimony concerning density, traffic issues and whether the council could impose traffic generation assessments of the homes to be built there.
The assessments, an idea that Terry has discussed for some time, would impose a fee of $500 to $1,000 per lot, which would be banked and used to pay for improvements to infrastructure, like streets, that would eventually result from development.
Terry said he talked to County Counselor Wes Yates about his idea to approach McBride on possibly reducing the number of homes in Bear Ridge, and to charge the fee.
“I talked with him on March 5, ahead of the March 8 meeting (where the council ordered the public hearing on April 26), and he directed me to (assistant county counselor) Jason Cordes. I was told it was reasonable to ask for the number of homes to be reduced, and there was nothing said about a fee being illegal.
“Then (on April 26), I was told the whole thing was illegal. This was the first time I had heard this. I found it embarrassing I was being called out in front of my fellow council members, in front of McBride and everyone who was listening in. Needless to say, it really ticked me off.”
The council eventually voted 4-0, with Terry abstaining, to discuss the disposition of the rezoning case at its May 10 meeting.
Yates said he has been discussing the issue with Terry for at least two years, when he first proposed legislation setting up the fees.
Yates also said as early as June 2019, he sent a message to Terry stating that “our office has … serious concerns” about the bill that would set up the fees.
Yates said either he or Cordes have communicated with him throughout the last two years about reservations about the fees, and further discussions went on the afternoon before the April 26 meeting.
“Mr. Terry knew of our concerns,” Yates said. “This is not personal. Our client is the county. My job is to keep the county from making mistakes, because mistakes cost money. I wish Jim well. I think he did a good job for his district and his constituents. I hate to see him go, but I’m sorry he took this personally because it was never meant that way.”
Gannon said he also wishes Terry well.
“He was an effective councilman,” Gannon said.
Councilman Phil Hendrickson (District 3, Arnold), who is the chair of the council, said applications to fill Terry’s seat will be taken, with an announcement about the process likely on May 10.
The council likely would interview applicants and then vote to select someone to serve until a new member is sworn in after the November 2022 election.
“I would hope the (successor) would want to run for election next year,” Hendrickson said.
He also said he has enjoyed working with Terry.
“He has worked diligently for his district,” Hendrickson said. “I will say that District 7 has been well represented.”
Terry said he wants his resignation to be a force for good.
“I’m not trying to stir up trouble for the administration, but to explain why I quit and hopefully encourage some changes to make things work better,” he said.
A retired electronics engineer for McDonnell Douglas-Boeing, Terry said he’s not sure how he’ll spend his newfound free time, although he and his wife, Teresa, will enjoy babysitting for their first great-grandson, Kaden, who was born four weeks ago.