After years of debate and delays, construction has begun on the Missouri Bluffs housing development in St. Charles County.
The development will include 221 residences, located about a mile from Interstate 40 on land overlooking the Katy Trail. The St. Charles County Council voted last September to approve the project, which has faced criticism from residents, environmental groups and the county’s planning and zoning commission.
The University of Missouri sold the nearly 48-acre parcel to developer Greg Whittaker of NT Home Builders in December for $1.3 million, according to university spokesperson Christian Basi.
Crews are removing trees and brush from the ridgeline bordering the Missouri Bluffs Golf Club, a candy-cane-shaped parcel subdivided into 32 lots. Undeveloped lots are now for sale, starting at $149,500 each.
More than 300 families have expressed interest in the community, according to Brad Goss, an attorney for the developer.
“The site location, setting, conservation approach to development, golf course and low property taxes have spurred great interest in the project,” Goss said in an email.
But the development has faced its share of controversy since plans were first introduced in 2017. The St. Charles County Planning and Zoning Commision twice rejected plans for the subdivision, citing concerns over increased traffic, lack of parking and the steepness of the roads.
“I think there’s real concerns with the density of the development and the road width,” said commission member Kevin Cleary during a meeting last July.
The St. Charles County Council ultimately overrode the commission’s recommendations in September, voting 5-1 to greenlight the project.
The construction site was silent Thursday afternoon, as golfers strolled near front loaders and towering piles of wood chips.
Shading his eyes to scan the muddy hillside, Missouri Sierra Club director John Hickey said he hopes the university will avoid such deals in the future.
“These trees, they’re gone,” Hickey said. “We can’t turn that around, but we know that the University of Missouri owns thousands and thousands of acres. Our hope is moving forward the university will not take land that was given to them for the public trust and turn around and let somebody clear cut it to make a buck.”
The University of Missouri purchased the land for $1 from the federal government in the late 1940s, after it was seized from residents and farmers through eminent domain to build a munitions plant.
The purchase agreement required the university to use the land for research for at least 20 years, after which it could sell it.
University officials are now finalizing a deal to sell an additional 87-acre parcel to NT Home Builders, which will be developed as part of the next phase of the Missouri Bluffs subdivision. University spokesperson Christian Basi declined to comment on the details of the pending sale.
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