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A proposal to build a luxury, gated apartment complex at I-55 and Main Street in Imperial may not get off the drawing board.

The Jefferson County Planning and Zoning Commission voted 4-1 Feb. 11 to recommend denial of a rezoning request and a development plan to build 13 apartment buildings with 306 units on 19.65 acres on the southeast corner of I-55 and Imperial Main Street.

That request asks the county to rezone several smaller lots from various single-family residential districts to a single planned mixed residential zoning designation.

In a separate 4-1 vote, the P and Z board also recommended denial of a request to zone the northernmost 1.38 acres of the site, between the I-55 northbound exit ramp and Old State Road, from single-family residential to non-planned community commercial.

That small lot, developers said, would have included a store that would likely cater to the apartment dwellers, and provide the main entrance to the gated complex off Old State Road.

The P and Z board acts as an advisory body to the Jefferson County Council, which will make the ultimate decision on the two requests. The County Council will first decide whether to place legislation on its agenda to approve either or both requests, or resolutions to deny either or both.

The site, which is just north of the Wolf Hollow Estates subdivision off Old State Road currently being developed, is now heavily wooded.

Rowles Development Co. of Ballwin is proposing the development, to be called Avon on Main. It would include studio and one-, two- and three-bedroom apartments, ranging from 600 square feet to 1,400 square feet, with about 55 percent to be two-bedroom units.

Adam Baer, project manager for the company, said rent likely would range from $900 per month to $1,600 per month.

Because the meeting was held via the Zoom videoconferencing app, public comments either for or against the applications were taken in advance by email.

Assistant County Services Director Dennis Kehm Jr. read the emails into the written record of the case.

Kehm read seven emails in favor of the plan.

He then read 44 emails against, which took at least two hours, as opposed to the 10-minute maximum time typically allotted for opponents to speak at a live meeting.

DeDe Remspecher probably best summed up the sentiment of most of those against the proposal.

“I know you people love the revenue, but come on,” she wrote. “I’m not against all apartments, just apartments that impact me and my neighborhood. Apartments are apartments and I don’t want the traffic and everything they bring with them.”

Opponents cited concerns with increased traffic the apartment complex would generate, both on Old State Road and at the I-55 and Main Street intersection.

“Imperial Main and Old State simply cannot handle the increase in traffic,” wrote Tyler Christiansen, who lives in Wolf Hollow Estates.

Shawn White, senior traffic engineer of CBB Transportation Engineers and Planning of St. Louis, said she conducted a traffic study, and it concluded that, while left turns from Old State Road onto Main Street are currently problematic, a traffic signal at that intersection would be sufficient to resolve those issues.

“MoDOT (the Missouri Department of Transportation) would be in control of the signal, and it would be coordinated with the lights at I-55,” she said.

Cheryl and Henry McGauly said they had issues with the traffic study.

“We question the validity of any study done during the 2020 pandemic,” they said, also noting that Wolf Hollow Estates has not yet been fully developed.

After that 250-home subdivision is fully built out, more traffic would be generated, they contended.

White said her study used pre-pandemic traffic counts and figured on all homes being occupied in Wolf Hollow Estates.

“It also added a full apartment complex,” she said.

Another Wolf Hollow Estates resident, Pamela Davis, said the Missouri Department of Natural Resources has cited problems with a detention pond in her subdivision, adding that the apartments and parking lots would send even more water their way.

However, Gene Fribis of Hennegan and Associates in Arnold said the apartment complex “would have zero effect” on stormwater issues in Wolf Hollow Estates.

“The site is downstream of any adjoining neighbor, including existing homes in Wolf Hollow Estates,” he said.

Davis and other Wolf Hollow Estates homeowners said they didn’t want to see the back of an apartment complex rather than the woods next to their homes.

Fribis said the plans call for a buffer strip of at least 40 feet of mature trees along the southern edge of the complex, facing Wolf Hollow Estates, and a 100-foot-wide buffer zone on the east along Old State Road, shielding homes on that county road.

Several email writers spoke about fears that the apartment complex would generate crime.

“This area already struggled with car break-ins and thefts,” wrote David and Rachel Thies.

Stephanie Cook said Wolf Hollow Estates has been visited by carjackers, drug users in homes under construction and a drugged-up methamphetamine user roaming the streets.

Bob Koch, architect of the project, said he understood the fears of homeowners, but said Avon on Main would attract a higher-class clientele.

“Based on other similar developments, many of our clients will be women and seniors, two types of people extremely concerned about crime, too,” he said.

“These apartments will do criminal checks on their tenants. That’s not a requirement for someone to get a mortgage for a home. People who will live here will have the same concerns as the neighboring homeowners.”

Other opponents said they were worried about overcrowding in the Windsor C-1 School District, but Koch said most of the three-bedroom units will likely be rented to seniors who are downsizing from owning their homes.

“They want the extra space for their stuff, not for children,” he said.

Others said they were concerned about adding a retail element when a strip shopping center across I-55 has vacancies, but Fribis said adding the apartments will help, not hurt, that situation.

Planning commissioners Larry Adkins, Gene Barbagallo, Mike Huskey and Danny Tuggle voted to recommend denial of the two requests; planning commissioner Tim Dugan cast the sole dissenting vote in both cases.

Planning commissioners Jessie Scherrer and Greg Bowers were absent.