The long history of the spring that gave House Springs its last name soon may have a new chapter.
The county owns a small park near Hwy. MM and Hwy. 30 that includes the namesake spring, and the Jefferson County Council may vote at its Nov. 23 meeting to transfer ownership of that 0.83-acre park from the county to a nonprofit group of surrounding businesses.
The transfer would clear the way for the county to consider a medical marijuana dispensary at 3 Walters Place, in an adjoining shopping center.
Nirvana Bliss III LLC of Fenton, run by Bernard Goethe, has state approval for the dispensary and has applied with the county’s Planning Department for a required conditional-use permit to build it on an undeveloped 1.06-acre lot at 3 Walters Place.
However, its request, which was scheduled to be heard by the Jefferson County Planning and Zoning Commission first on Sept. 24 and then delayed until Oct. 22, is in limbo because under terms of the conditional-use permit, the county cannot approve it.
Under changes to the Unified Development Order approved by the County Council in 2019 to regulate medical marijuana facilities, such businesses cannot be located within 1,000 feet of a school, daycare center, church or public park.
The county park, which includes the spring, falls well within that radius, county officials said.
A $1 deal
The spring area was deeded to the county for $1 in 2008 by the developer of the Walters Place shopping center, Paul Taylor.
At the time, Taylor, the owner of a chain of convenience gasoline stations, said he knew part of his planned shopping center included the area where Adam House’s spring was located and where House and his son were killed after a conflict with Osage Indians in March 1800.
House was the House in House Springs, and the spring once supplied water to the area as it was settled.
Development in the area changed the topography, with most of the springs in the area diverted underground. By the time the property that includes the spring was deeded to the county, it was considered an eyesore.
The area was designated as common ground and a water detention area by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
The High Ridge Rotary Club reportedly spent about $7,000 to place benches, trash cans and birdhouses in the area to prepare it for use as a park that would be maintained by the Jefferson County Parks Department.
Councilman Jim Terry (District 7, Cedar Hill) said he and Linda Schroeder donated landscaping and other resources in 2015 after they said the area wasn’t being maintained.
“After that, they (the county Parks Department) kept it up pretty well,” said Terry.
However, he said, even with all the attention paid to it, the land has never been much of a park.
“I think of a park as a place where people can do things,” he said. “All you can do there is just sit. And for a few months of the year, because the water table in the area has changed, it’s pretty much of a perpetual eyesore.”
Terry, whose district includes the area, said he would support the county giving up the parcel – with a caveat.
“I’d like to see a different nonprofit group run it,” he said.
A $10 deal
The proposal before the County Council would transfer ownership of the spring property to a group called House Springs Preservation Inc. for $10 – a 100 percent profit over the $1 the county spent to add the land in 2008.
“But the county has put a lot of money into maintaining it through the years,” Terry said. “Just keeping it mowed every couple of weeks during the summer is an expense.”
House Springs Preservation Inc. was registered as a nonprofit corporation with the Missouri Secretary of State’s Office on Oct. 24.
Terry said he believes a group of businesses in the area make up the group. The paperwork with the state lists Hillsboro attorney Derrick Good as its registered agent.
“I think he just helped them draw up the papers,” Terry said.
Good did not return a phone call for comment.
Terry said he would support the proposal if House Springs Preservation Inc. agreed to turn the land over to a different nonprofit group that would have the wherewithal to take care of upkeep.
“As long as it’s a legitimate group, I’d be on board,” he said. “Not just a new one formed for this purpose. I’d like to see it run by people who live here and who aren’t going to let it go.”
Terry said a number of civic groups in the area could step up.
“I was thinking of the Hwy. 30 Foundation,” Terry said of the group that led the effort for a skate park that is now the Northwest Sports Complex. “But it doesn’t have to be them. It can be the High Ridge Rotary, the Northwest Chamber of Commerce and even the Parks Foundation.”
The Jefferson County Parks Foundation is an independent group that raises money for county parks activities, and Terry conceded its involvement in the property could be problematic.
“They’re needing to rebrand it from being a park to a historic site, which is probably what it should have been labeled in the first place,” Terry said.
He said he hopes details about such an arrangement are presented to council members as early as Nov. 23.
“I think talks to that effect are underway,” Terry said.
He said he disagreed with a couple of people who have told him county officials are trying something underhanded.
“I’ve gotten a couple of callers who told me they think this is a loophole to allow a (medical marijuana facility) to come in. I don’t think it is a loophole. I would think this would be a win-win for the county,” Terry said. “The Parks Department would not have to maintain the area, it would be preserved and we can bring in a business that will generate tax revenue for the county.”
On the first of three required votes on the proposal on Nov. 9, the council voted 6-1 to advance the legislation to the Nov. 23 meeting. If it is not amended at that time, it could be approved.
Councilman Charles Groeteke (District 4, Barnhart), who cast the sole dissenting vote, said he would need more details about which group or groups may control the property.
“I’m wary of voting in favor of this without knowing who these people are and what their motives are,” he said.
The Nov. 9 meeting was conducted through the Zoom video conference app, like the Nov. 23 meeting will be. Public comments may be submitted in advance by emailing them before 3 p.m. Nov. 23 to email@example.com.