Council Makes Right Decision on a Rezoning

29 Jul

It was heartening to read in this week’s Leader that the Jefferson County Council reversed a previous negative vote on a rezoning proposal for a trailer sales and service facility near DeSoto on July 24, putting the project on track for approval. While the GOP-dominated council has done good things over the years, too often it has shot down proposals for the new businesses that our county needs. Instead it defers in too many cases to the overwrought, predictable concerns of neighbors who want to control other people’s property.

In this case, council members Dan Stallman and Jim Kasten (the lone Democrat) voted yes both times, while Renee Reuter changed from no to yes and Don Bickowski switched from abstain to yes. Previously absent Jim Terry voted yes also. Bob Boyer and Charles Groeteke were the no votes both times. The original 3-2 vote against became a 5-2 vote in favor.

I did not like the quote in the Leader from Reuter, who said:

It’s always difficult when you have competing groups from the public. I try to vote with what I think is the majority.

That should not be the criteria, whether a majority of neighbors approve of a proposal. These are situations where people are trying to do things with their own land. Zoning rules have a purpose, but unless a proposal presents an egregious issue, property owners should be able to proceed with their projects. In this case, the county’s Planning and Zoning Commission (P&Z), which considers proposals before the council does, voted unanimously to recommend this project for approval.

The P&Z made the same unanimous vote in another recent controversial case, in which an apartment complex has been proposed for a long-vacant parcel in Imperial. Of course, the neighbors want to continue to have an empty lot next to them. Don’t we all want to control the land around us for our benefit? Groeteke invoked the classic argument against new developments:

I’m not against development. We need development in Jefferson County. But this is not the right kind of development.

Opponents of new projects always say they approved of new projects, just not in the proposed location, which happens to be near their house. This same argument was advanced to oppose converting another long-vacant building in Imperial to transitional housing for the homeless (which P&Z recently voted in favor of). They want the project to go near someone else’s house. Groeteke also invoked the often-seen “layperson knows best” argument about this property that has been for sale for 12 years.

I think it would be conducive to professional or medical offices, he said. The key is to get more revenue for the county, not just apartment buildings where people just live there.

Everyone thinks they know what project should go where, but they aren’t businesspeople or developers. Clearly the market has no interest in putting offices in this location. And I will add that the people who would have occupied these apartments would have paid plenty of local sales and personal property taxes, and the apartment owner would have paid property taxes. Plus, adding 84 apartments worth of people to the area might encourage more businesses to open.

The apartment project was rejected by the council on a 6-1 vote, with Boyer the only vote in favor. It was officially denied by the same vote at the July 24 council meeting.

As for the affirmative vote on the trailer sales proposal, county executive Ken Waller approved of it, saying correctly that the council has “talked about growth and economic development for a long time.”


4 Responses to “Council Makes Right Decision on a Rezoning”

  1. George Thompson July 30, 2017 at 12:30 pm #

    It’s really simple. Anybody wishing to control what is done with a piece of property should simply buy it. Problem solved.


  2. More to the story July 30, 2017 at 3:34 pm #

    This article does not contain the whole story of the cases mentioned.

    With regard to the trailer sales/service facility, no one wanted to control what the petitioner could do with his property. The two main issues were the dangerous intersection of Papin Rd. and Hwy. 67 and the rezoning of a subdivision lot to allow for uses that are not permitted.

    There have been a number of accidents at the intersection, because the line of sight is poor for those who wish to cross the highway. Two accidents occurred at the intersection shortly after the hearing before the council, one of which involved a cargo trailer. Apparently there were no police reports, as they do not show up on the highway patrol website, but residents there know they occurred. Adding more vehicles hauling trailers to/from the business is going to impact the safety of the intersection.

    The issue with the subdivision lot is that the petitioner wants to use the one lot to access his business, yet he already has MODOT approval for access via Hwy. 67. He is aware of the restrictions, as it was brought up in the hearings. Obviously, he has no intention of respecting them, nor does the county.

    Another interesting aspect to this case is how the vote on a resolution to deny was delayed. This allowed the petitioner to get more people (with county connections by the way) to pressure the council to approve it. Mrs. Reuter’s statement about her initial “no” vote seemed to indicate the visuals on the intersection convinced her. That has not changed, only her vote to “yes.”

    Yet another issue is that Mr. Stallman did not respond to the residents who tried numerous times to contact him. I would not have pegged him as one who would ignore the people, but he did.

    Perhaps if the petitioner had met with all of residents of the nearby subdivision, rather than only one couple, and was willing to respect the covenants and restrictions rather than trample them, the whole protest petition could have been avoided.

    Regarding the apartments in Imperial, nearby residents were open to a commercial development, which would be of more benefit to the county and emergency services rather than putting a strain on those services. The assisted living facility that is proposed for development nearby would greatly benefit from medical or similar services being developed where the apartment complex would have gone. I don’t know of anyone against the proposed assisted living facility.

    Regarding the transitional living facility for the homeless, the close proximity to the school was of concern, as was the lack of a local police force to deal with issues that might arise. Online articles on Shared Blessings in Bonne Terre, the model for Haven for Hope, indicated concerning issues such as a sex offender living there as well as others with warrants for arrest. The acceptance of a sex offender should have been avoided with background checks, but there must have been a failure in the system somewhere. Also of concern was turning folks loose on the streets in Imperial who had broken the rules and were kicked out of the facility. Bonne Terre has a full-time police force, whereas Imperial has to rely on only the Sheriff’s Department. (The P&Z hearing revealed that rule breakers would be transferred elsewhere.)

    So now that you know more of the story, perhaps the assumption won’t be made that those in opposition want to control what others do with their property. They just want their concerns heard and addressed, which paves the way for both sides to work together to make for a better relationship between neighbors.

    What you should be investigating and covering is the manipulation of the process with regard to the trailer sales/service business.


    • JC Penknife July 31, 2017 at 9:40 pm #

      I am familiar with all of these claims. Every group that wants to control neighboring property comes up with reasons why. They are usually the same reasons each time. The question is whether these claims are legitimate or not. The P&Z did not think so in any of these cases. The fears about the transitional home are especially specious, as they assume everyone who lives there will be a criminal.


      • More to the story August 1, 2017 at 10:46 am #

        So do you think it’s OK for a developer to want a subdivision lot rezoned for a purpose not permitted in restrictions?

        Do you not see a problem with how things were manipulated or how Mr. Stallman ignored his constituents (at least those in opposition), because you believe they came to the right conclusion?

        Do you think people should be able to do whatever they want with their property even if it infringes on the neighboring properties?

        It’s unfair to generalize and assume people want to control neighboring property just because they speak out in opposition.


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