Even though construction is already underway, the future of a housing complex for low income seniors in Oakville is now in question.
The St. Louis County Council passed a resolution Tuesday night meant to halt construction on the controversial facility, sending it back to the planning and zoning commission for further consideration.
The measure was sponsored by Councilman Steve Stenger, who first introduced legislation that authorized the development’s construction last year.
He said an outpouring of public concerns about the development, which is located next to a preschool, caused a change of heart.
Stenger said the key issue is that the process the county uses to notify the public about open hearings regarding planning and zoning issues is outdated.
“Had they had notice and had an opportunity to be heard, we would not be sitting here this evening and they wouldn’t have had to come all the way to Clayton to voice their concerns,” Stenger said.
County Executive Charlie Dooley said he did not believe the development could be stopped now that it has been approved and that blocking the development could cost the county millions of dollars in a potential lawsuit.
Both Dooley and Stenger declined to field questions from reporters once the meeting was over.
The measure was approved by a vote of 5-1, with Councilwoman Hazel Erby abstaining and Council Chairwoman Kathleen Burkett voting against its passage.
Like several residents, Richard Dohack raised concerns during the meeting about the three story complex being located near a preschool.
“I have a real issue with anyone, I don’t care if it’s a low income senior, I don’t care if it’s a billionaire, I have an issue with anyone I don’t know being able to look down on my son in that playground every single day,” Dohack said.
Miles Larson grew up in Oakville and now studies public policy and urban affairs at Saint Louis University. He told the council that he didn’t feel like the county did a good job notifying the public about the complex in the first place.
“But, I was also concerned about the message that Oakville residents were sending about poor people, perceiving them as possible criminals who will prey on children, which just isn’t accurate,” Larsaon said.
The facility is being constructed by National Church Residences, a non-profit that has received a more than $6.7 million “capital advance” from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to complete the project.
National Church Residences Spokesperson, Karen Twinem, said they’ve haven’t had any issues with similar facilities located near schools and day cares centers.
“We have another building that I’m well aware of in Columbus that is next to a day care center, about the same distance,” Twinem said. “What happens in that building is that the children in the day care center come over and sing Christmas carols to the old people and have an intergenerational thing.”
Twinem said they went through the appropriate zoning procedure, and representatives for the non-profit were in regular contact with Councilman Stenger.
The non-profit entered into a regulatory agreement, Twinem said, that ensures for the next 40 years apartments can only be leased to people 62-years-old or older who earn at or below half of the median annual income for the area. All applicants are screened for criminal history, including sex offender screening, credit and rental history, according to National Church Residences.
However, it would be possible for a maximum of one other person to live in each apartment who is under the age of 62 if they are, for example, a resident's spouse, grandchild or care giver. Anyone living in the complex that is 18-years-old or older must undergo a criminal background check, Twinem said.
Twinem added that it is unlikely that there would be more than one person living in an apartment, and that only two-percent of the 700 living apartments for low income seniors that National Church Residences has in Missouri have more than one occupant.
Follow Tim Lloyd on Twitter: @TimSLloyd