Eureka’s Planning and Zoning Commission has voted to give negative recommendations to the Board of Aldermen regarding Winter Brothers Material Company’s request for rezoning and a special use permit.
The negative votes won applause from the audience; however, City Attorney Kathy Butler later said that the company would have 30 days to appeal the action once the written report of the commission decision comes out. An appeal could take place as early as December, meaning the Board likely wouldn’t consider the issue until January, she said.
Members of the commission cited potential traffic and quality of life concerns about the plan.
Only Chairman Ken Knapp and Commissioner Mark Schmiedeskamp favored the rezoning, and the commission unanimously opposed granting the special use permit.
The proposal is for about 247 acres at Williams and Augustine roads, on the western bank of the Meramec River.
Greg Hoffmann, an attorney for the sand and gravel mining firm, also said the firm likely won’t decide on making an appeal until December at the earliest.
The property is currently zoned residential, and P& Z Commissioner Tom Siebenman, along with others on the commission, has said that zoning allows for many uses of the site, such as schools and golf courses, not just homes.
“Winter Brothers bought this site in 1974 to mine it. Has it taken them 40 years to figure out they can’t build homes there?” Siebenman asked. “I see no compelling reason to change the zoning. They haven’t shown that residential use is unreasonable.”
While results of the company’s traffic access review showed existing infrastructure is more than adequate to support additional company vehicles safely and effectively, Siebenman and other commissioners also feared potential problems with truck traffic on Hwy. 109, especially trucks trying to make tight turns, such as on to I-44.
Winter Brothers officials have said that, at maximum, a total of nearly 200 trucks would enter and leave the site daily, but they wouldn’t be allowed to drive on Williams or residential roads. However, Commissioner Jim Scheer said he was “very troubled on the potential for severe accidents,” adding that numerous heavy trucks could have trouble getting up to I-44 speeds and blending with traffic.
In response, Winter Brothers’ consultant Marty Henson said a lot of traffic now at the Hwy. 109/I-44 intersection is heavy due to homes and businesses already approved by Eureka, Wildwood and St. Louis County, among others, and that allowing up to 231 homes on the company’s property would generate far more traffic than the sand and gravel operation.
Knapp insisted that, “when a person buys property, they have the right to do what they can with the property legally.” However, he added that although he grew up in Fenton, he never experienced problems with the company plant there.
“My struggle is whether this plan is the right thing for this property,” Knapp said.
Commissioner Bryan Kiefer said his concerns about the plan included a possible effect on aquifers feeding municipal and private wells, the only sources for water in the city “and depended on by 10,187 people.”
“You’ll be changing something, somewhere,” Kiefer said.
While Ryan Winter, a vice president of the firm, said water used in processing would be pumped from a lake on the site and continually reused, company officials also said that water would come from a Meramec River aquifer. However, Hoffmann presented a consultant evaluation that indicated the Winter Brothers site’s distance from municipal wells, protective casing of wells, and difference in well depths should eliminate any impact on the public drinking water supply.
Hoffmann also has said a so-called “wet extraction” process the company would use would allow for sand and gravel extraction by hydraulic dredge, so there would be no blasting or crushing. But Butler countered that, while a Winter Brothers consultant report offered air samples showing no harm from dust emissions to workers wearing canisters in their plants, wind could carry dust off any improperly tarped trucks leaving the plant, potentially affecting unprotected residents.
Addressing the assembled group of residents and P&Z members on Nov. 12, Tom Winter, president of the firm, said sand and gravel taken from the site would benefit and are needed by the entire region.
“Sometimes members of a community must compromise and assume certain burdens due to the greater good for a sustainable society,” he told the crowd, adding the company would be subject to federal and other regulations to prevent noise, water and air pollution and other problems.
He asked the commission and residents to “ensure concerns are based not on fears and misconceptions but on facts.”
Conversely, resident Carleen Murray, who lives in the Augustine Heights subdivision, presented the city with 738 signatures on petitions from residents opposed to the Winter Brothers plans.
“This commission represents us – not the greater St. Louis area,” she said.
She urged the commission to “keep this land residential and put the safety and welfare of Eureka residents before the profitability of a company.”