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Special zoning exception approved in Ballwin but not yet final

After many comments reflecting mixed emotions, the Ballwin Board of Aldermen unanimously approved a special use exception [SUE] to enable ELCO Chevrolet Cadillac to build a new service and repair center on the former Ballwin Nursery property. However, Mayor Tim Pogue’s action after the board’s vote at its July 23 meeting means the issue is at least a month away from being settled.

Pogue announced after the SUE vote that he would not sign the measure. What that means is that he has until the next board meeting, Aug. 27, to give aldermen a written list of reasons for actually vetoing the measure.

If he doesn’t formally reject the bill and explain his actions in doing so, the ordinance goes into effect without his signature. The measure also will be effective if the board overrides a veto, a step requiring a two-thirds majority vote of the city’s eight aldermen.

The mayor earlier said he could not support the SUE due to the dealership’s past ordinance violations and its ignoring of citations to comply with city zoning regulations. At issue has been the use of the former nursery property and another parcel across Old Ballwin Road on the south side of Manchester Road as parking lots for employee and inventory vehicles.

A few days before the board meeting, cars were removed from the Manchester Road lot but remained on the nursery property.

City officials also have asked ELCO to address overgrown vegetation on the nursery site.

The parking and vegetation issues are what led Pogue to vote against a city planning commission motion earlier this month to allow the exception.

The mayor said he hasn’t decided whether or not to veto the proposed SUE. That decision depends on the company’s actions and whether it comes into compliance, he said.

The current SUE request is the second ELCO has sought for the nursery site. The first expired after a year of no work being done on the service center; thus, necessitating a second proposal.

If the SUE does go into effect, the measure carries with it a number of specific, additional provisions with which ELCO will be required to comply. The requirements range from irrigating mandated landscaped areas and prohibiting trash and debris accumulation to limiting work on vehicles and other products inside the proposed service center only to installing a sidewalk along the property on Old Ballwin.

Several aldermen noted their tendency to favor approving the SUE for the long-established dealership but said the city’s recent experiences with the business had caused second thoughts.

Alderman Jim Terbrock [Ward 1] said the city’s relationship with ELCO was good over the years but recent events had not been as positive.

In a similar vein, Alderman Frank Fleming [Ward 3] said he has been disappointed by the company’s responsiveness, while Alderman Mark Stallmann [Ward 2] said he and his colleagues “haven’t seen good performance lately,” including a lack of action on the first SUE issued last year.

Paul Roeder, an ELCO executive, and Tim Elli, representing a real estate consulting firm working with the dealership, asserted that the problems facing the company have not been easy to resolve. “But we will do whatever we need to do because we have no other choice,” Elli stated.

Among other things, the firm has some 200 employees and finding a safe place for them to park their cars has been difficult. Parking at locations requiring them to cross Manchester Road is not a good option, Roeder said.

Also, the demands of a competitive business require an adequate inventory of vehicles for customers to see when they visit the dealership.

In a reference to earlier delays in getting the new service center started, Roeder affirmed that additional expenditures the company has made recently on engineering plans and other aspects of the project mean, “We are ready to go.”

Apologizing for the earlier problems, he added, “The end product will be great, I guarantee it.”

On a roll call tally, all seven aldermen present, as well as Alderman Kevin Roach [Ward 2] who joined the meeting via a video hookup, voted for granting the SUE, which included the additional conditions.

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