The St. Louis County Planning and Zoning Commission heard public comments Monday night about a low income housing development in Oakville that has become the source of intense concern from some residents.
Construction is already underway on the three-story, 44-unit facility located at 6050 Telegraph Road in south St. Louis County, but many residents say a flawed public notice process meant they only recently became aware of the facility.
Several residents brought their concerns before the county council last month, prompting the council to send the development back to the planning and zoning commission for further consideration.
Mark Haefner said there is a need for more affordable housing, but the building is far too big for its current location.
"The problem that Oakville has with this is the size, the scope and purpose of the property as it currently stands," Haefner said "Regarding the size, we’ve heard that it’s 1.44 acres, they plan to put up to 90 people on that property as it’s zoned for double occupancy. I don’t care if this is a retirement home for billionaires, the property is too small of a space for the proposed sized of the building."
While the vast majority of speakers voiced their opposition to the facility, a handful of people spoke in favor of the development.
Last night and at previous meetings on the development, residents said they were worried about the fact it will be located just feet away from a preschool.
But Helen Sloan told the commission that she sees the location as an asset.
“I kind of see this as a wonderful opportunity for many teachable moments for these children, not to mention the reciprocal enjoyment for the elderly to be near the children,” Sloan 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.
Last month, County Executive Charlie Dooley said that blocking the development could cost the county millions of dollars in a potential lawsuit. Dooley has reiterated that the county followed the proper procedure for notifying the development before it was approved.
National Church Residences Spokesperson, Karen Twinem, said they are considering their legal options should the commission choose to rezone the development's location and prevent its completion.
“We are working with our attorneys, they have looked at the case law,” Twinem said. “There are not very many cases in which a property is rezoned during construction, but there are some. We are just going to have to turn this over to the attorneys.”
Twinem said they have signed contracts with contractors and the organization has already invested more than $1.5 million into building the facility.
“To consider rezoning a property after you’ve started construction will likely have quite a chilling effect on people,” Twinem said. “We certainly have had contractors and others contact us to tell us they are very concerned about this very unusual situation.”
A final decision from the Planning and Zoning Commission is expected to come next month.
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