The Jefferson County Council will have to decide whether to approve a rezoning request that would allow a 200-unit apartment complex to be built in High Ridge without a clear recommendation by the Jefferson County Planning Commission.
The planning board, which advises the County Council on zoning issues, deadlocked 4-4 at its Nov. 14 meeting on the rezoning request from Lorenzo LLC of St. Louis, which wants to build apartments on 16.13 acres at Hwy. 30, Old Sugar Creek Road and Wilderness Lane.
The County Council, which has the ultimate authority to rezone property in unincorporated areas, will likely take up the issue at a meeting in December. Three votes taken in at least two meetings are required for approval.
The request calls for seven buildings each with 24 two-bedroom apartments and an eighth building with 32 one-bedroom units. An office and a pool also would be part of the development.
Lorenzo LLC is asking for five lots totaling 16.13 acres to be rezoned from non-planned community commercial to planned residential.
The land has been vacant since at least 1998.
Dan Govero of Govero Land Services of Imperial, who represented Lorenzo LLC at the Nov. 14 hearing, said he wanted to quash rumors that the complex would cater to low-income people.
“I don’t know who started the rumor that this is Section 8 housing, but it is not Section 8 housing,” Govero said. “These are luxury apartments. The type of apartments (Lorenzo LLC) builds are rented for $1,200 to $1,300 a month. They’re quality and they are full.
“We could have went with three-story buildings and crammed more in there, but we elected to do two-story buildings because the third story is hard to access and it’s not as reasonable to rent,” Govero said.
He also pointed out that 400 parking spaces are planned, more than the 300 the county called for.
“We find that in these apartment complexes, you need at least two parking spaces, so that’s why we’re providing this many,” Govero said.
He also said the main street planned through the development, called Sugar Plum Lane, will be built to county standards and turned over to the county for public use, providing a connection between Old Sugar Creek Road and Gravois Road.
“The connector road will give people better access to fire and ambulance, which is off Hwy. 30, so it will be closer than having to drive all the way up Hwy. 30 and come back down Gravois Road,” Govero said. “So we are going to build a quality development. I think it’s good for the area.”
Six people who testified against the request were unconvinced.
Jill Hartman, who lives across Old Sugar Creek Road from the site, submitted a petition that she said had more than 160 signatures from people who oppose the apartment plans.
George Hartman, who also lives across from the site, said he was worried about increased traffic congestion and pedestrian use along Old Sugar Creek Road, which has a mixture of residential and commercial uses, and at the major intersection at Old Sugar Creek Road and Hwy. 30.
“My concerns are an increased number of people who will be walking along a narrow, two-lane, winding, limited sight-distance county road with no sidewalks, no crosswalks and no walk signals,” he said.
George Hartman also said he preferred not to see apartments built in the area.
“The land in question would better serve our community if it were developed into a retirement community or assisted living facility where the increase in vehicle traffic would be minimal and the safety of our children and grandchildren would not be forsaken or put into harm’s way,” he said.
Hartman also said he objected to the names given to two of the streets in the development – Sugar Daddy Court and Sugar Daddy Drive.
“Please come up with more family friendly street names,” he said. “They do not represent the values of parents and grandparents who oppose this zone change request.”
Govero said the street names are not set in stone.
“I can talk to the developer about changing those,” he said. “He was trying to do the Sugar Creek theme and trying to come up with names that aren’t used already, which is kind of tough when you start looking up and down Sugar Creek Road.”
Richard Hendrix, who lives south of the area, likened the Hwy. 30-Sugar Creek intersection to the Indianapolis Speedway.
“If you put this in, we’re going to have a lot of accidents, a lot of hurt people. And we take four or five lights now to get off of Old Sugar Creek onto Hwy. 30. You put another hundred cars in there and wait.”
Stephanie Orlando, who lives on Wilderness Lane and owns a day care center on Gravois Road, said the developers providing a connection would cause more problems than it would solve.
“Just coming to and from home would be opening that up on what is a dead-end road now where people are just going to fly up and down Gravois. I know there are a lot of houses right on Gravois where children wait for buses.”
Govero said a traffic study required by the county as a condition of approving the rezoning request would answer a lot of questions.
“The traffic study will tell us a lot about what we have to do to make it safe,” he said.
Govero also said Gravois Road, while it does dead end, was not intended to do so.
“It was always a planned road,” he said. “We’re trying to connect roads, which makes it better for the county. In fact, they ask us on subdivisions to connect roads.”
Planning commissioners Danny Tuggle, Mike Huskey, Ray Hefner and Gene Barbagallo voted against recommending the rezoning, while Jessie Scherrer, Dan Smith, Larry Adkins and Greg Bowers voted for the recommendation.