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Ballwin commission approves exception proposal

The intersection of Old Ballwin and Manchester roads [Google Earth photo]

The Ballwin Planning and Zoning Commission has recommended approval of a special use exception [SUE] for an auto dealership, paving the way for final action on the measure by the city’s Board of Aldermen.

On a 7-1 vote at its July 2 meeting, commission members approved the SUE, this time for a scaled-back version of a plan that had received an exception a year ago.

At issue are plans by the ELCO Chevrolet Cadillac dealership on Manchester Road for a three-acre site formerly occupied by the Ballwin Nursery just south of the auto dealer on the east side of Old Ballwin Road.

An SUE expires a year after it is issued if no actual work on the planned project has started, a provision that brought ELCO back to the commission with revised plans still requiring an exception.

A lot on the southwest corner of the Old Ballwin-Manchester intersection also has become involved because it and the nursery property are being used as parking lots for new and employee vehicles. Both uses are violations of the city’s zoning rules.

The dealership had leased the lot for a number of months before recently acquiring it. However, ELCO representatives at the July 2 meeting said the parcel has been put up for sale.

At a May commission meeting, the dealership had submitted a revised plan related to its SUE request – a proposal that received a cool reception due to the lack both of progress on the original plan and a specific timetable for building a service center that has been listed as the primary use of the former nursery property.

Faced with a commission vote that could have denied the SUE request, ELCO opted to delay that decision-making until a later meeting when it could submit a further-revised plan.

The new SUE request and plan for the site now call for a 10,100-square-foot service center, or about half the size of the first proposal, but also includes a timetable calling for construction to begin this fall after various site preparation steps are completed.

Alderman Mike Finley [Ward 1] said the recent uses of the three-acre nursery property and the Manchester Road parcel as parking lots and the lack of progress on the service center were frustrating for city officials. A resident living near the former nursery also voiced her complaints at both the May and July meetings.

ELCO officials said they recognized the problems and apologized for them. Nonetheless, Mayor Tim Pogue, who had criticized ELCO for the zoning code violations earlier and for allowing the overgrowth of vegetation on the nursery site, voted against the SUE request.

For repeated violations, the city could levy a fine of up to $1,000 per car per day for illegal parking on the properties. Recent drive-by observations have shown dozens of vehicles parked daily at the two locations.

Ballwin also has cited the dealership twice for vegetation overgrowth.

The SUE request will come before the board of aldermen at an upcoming meeting, perhaps as early as the July 23 session.

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