Ellisville Planning and Zoning moves forward with Walmart plan
By: Sarah Wilson
The Ellisville City Council previously approved the plan for Walmart to build the store and receive tax increment financing for the new structure.
A conditional use permit is required because the store would exceed 50,000 square feet, would have multiple tenant space, would have a structure of more than 30 feet in height with a drive-through and because it includes a liquor license.
The public has been vocal about the development in part because it will force residents in the Clarkchester Apartments out of their homes. Originally, a $1,000 per resident cash benefit was offered to Clarkchester residents; however, the developer, Sansone Group, decided it would double the minimum cash benefit required by law to $2,000.
Sansone and Walmart also acknowledged that they have completed preliminary engineering work and refined their estimated project costs, resulting in a reduction of the size of the public subsidy. The developer will not pursue either a transportation development district (TDD) or a community improvement district (CID), which will save $4.2 million in public funds – $2.1 million each for the TDD and the CID. It also will reduce the Walmart sales tax by 2 percent.
At the hearing, Ada Hood, director of planning and community development, presented recommendations for the permit, including:
• installation of a sound wall instead of a proposed fence along the loading area
• prohibition of any exterior speakers
• limited times for loading and unloading of merchandise deliveries between the hours of 7 a.m. and 7 p.m.
• site lighting to feature new LED technology
• the preparation of a tree preservation plan
• compliance with all Metropolitan Sewer District storm water accommodations and water quality requirements
In response to lingering community complaints, P&Z member Charles Pavlack, acknowledged that he has heard a lot of complaints about the extra sales tax that would be imposed because of the TIF. However, he said, “There’s a simple answer to that, which is don’t shop at Walmart. The only sales tax that is affected by the TIF is only sales tax at Walmart.”
The commission took a vote of Ellisville residents and business owners in the audience to see who was in favor and who was opposed to the conditional use permit. Six were in favor, and 28 were opposed.
Residents and business owners mentioned concerns in regard to the site, such as dioxin contamination and the installation of medians as per the Great Streets Initiative, which the commission and the developer said they would look into further.
American Family Insurance agent Bill Voss said he was neutral about the Walmart coming in before he got a call telling him it would affect his business.
He said installing a new median, restricting ingress and egress along Manchester Road, would make it harder for customers to come into his building. He also said the proposed ratio of parking spots to square feet of building space is not consistent with the city’s current restrictions, but Hood said the city is in the process of changing that.
“Now I’m not neutral anymore,” Voss said. “I am totally opposed to this project.”
Resident Sandy McGrath said when she first moved to Ellisville years ago, she was excited to say that she lived in the city.
“It was a great residential community,” she said. “Folks knew each other. And I feel that we’re really moving away from that and trying to be a big city. It’s all about the bottom line now, and I’m a little concerned about that. I wish that if Walmart comes in that they have to follow the same rules that all the other businesses have had to follow.”
However, resident Thomas Reel said he is in favor of the project.
“I heard a lot of professional opinions that say that everything that Walmart and Sansone have done so far that are required for a conditional use permit,” Reel said to the commission. “If that’s the case, I believe you, as the zoning commission, have an obligation to approve the plan.”
Commission members Dan Duffy and Greg Sanborn were the only two who voted against the conditional use permit.
“Simply because they are here and they presented the plan, does not mean we have to approve it,” Duffy said. “The role of the city’s Planning and Zoning Commission is to address quality of life concerns as well as quality of life for residents as well as businesses. It has been clear from the start that the project is not favored by the majority of residents. … I have to conclude that we are looking at increased congestion, increased noise and increased crime in an area that already is congested.”
The next step is for the Commission’s decision to go to the Ellisville City Council and the Architectural Review Board to get the plan approved. Because of the favorable vote, Walmart would only require a simple majority vote from the Council to move forward.