Community Interest

Wide Range of Topics Discussed at Citizen Meeting March 4

 
By Dianne Sudbrock

St. Charles County District 2 Councilman Joe Brazil hosted a public meeting in New Melle on Thursday, March 4, 2021. Among the guest speakers were Mike Hulbert - Director of St. Charles County (SCC) Community Development, Kurt Fritz – St. Charles County Police Chief, Ryan Graham, Director of SCC Parks and Recreation, Amanda Brauer, Manager of SCC Roads and Traffic, Missouri Senator Bob Onder and New Melle Mayor Richard West.

COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT:

Mike Hulbert said St. Charles County is the fastest growing county in the state with a strong economy and housing market. He said the county’s Masterplan is updated every five years and provides a guideline for development. The plan covers demographics, economy, facilities and services, transportation, natural resources, land use, housing and future land use. The plan can be viewed/downloaded from the county’s website: www.sccmo.org.

The county’s population is estimated to 402,022 in 2020 and the largest urban areas are the cities along the I-70 corridor.

The Hwy. N corridor will be the highest growth area in the county over the next 10 years and that is reflected on the Future Land Use map. In western St. Charles County, the high-density area where 1-4 (or more) residential lots are allowed per acre extends basically from just south of Hwy. N (about Schnarre/Meinershagen Road) northward to the Lincoln County line. South of there is an area identified as Rural Residential that extends to Hwy D west of New Melle. Then south of that, most of the county is zoned agricultural, requiring lot sizes of at least five acres. Note: The area east of Hwy. F and south of D is a mixture of agricultural and Rural Residential.

The Rural Residential category is supposed to serve as a buffer between the high-density urban areas and the agricultural areas. The minimum lot size in the Rural Residential area is five acres, but if approved by Planning and Zoning and the County Council, three acres can be considered. Developments within the Rural Residential area should have minimum impact on natural and agricultural areas.

Hulbert said a lot of factors went into determining the various zoning areas, including topography and soil type, and said a lot of growth and development is dependent upon access to utilities. He also noted that 42% of the county’s land mass in is the flood plain, which also impacts development.

Brazil added that the county has taken steps to make the process of building a 5-acre minimum lot size subdivision easier for developers. A Realtor asked what was wrong with 3-acre lot sizes – as they are more affordable than 5-acres. Brazil said there were septic concerns, and he believed most people in this area preferred 5-acres lots.

Sabrina Wren, a fairly new resident to the area, urged everyone to stay informed and really watch what is happening at County Planning and Zoning meetings. “It is an eye-opening experience,” she said. Anyone can sign up on the county website to receive notices of meeting agendas. “Growth is coming, and we should all care about that and educate ourselves about what is happening,” she said.

County Council and P&Z meetings are broadcast live and available for viewing later from the county website. Wren and Brazil both urged citizens to go to meetings and be heard. “That really makes a difference,” Brazil said.

POLICE:

Police Chief Kurt Fritz gave an overview of services offered, including S.T.A.R.T (a locally administered alternative to the D.A.R.E. program in elementary schools,) Care Trak for the elderly, prescription drug disposal and vacation checks. He said St. Charles County also participates with regional agencies such as Metro Air Support, SWAT, Bomb Squad, Emergency Management; the FBI and other agencies. The department provides services to approximately 396,000 residents and businesses, and patrols about 587 square miles and 800 miles of public roadway.

Fritz said there is a robust drug trade in St. Charles County and recently, thefts from vehicles (especially firearms) and thefts of vehicles have been a problem. He urged citizens to use common sense. Don’t leave valuables in plain sight, even in locked cars, as they entice “smash and grab” thefts. Remote areas like parking lots in county parks or along the Katy Trail are particularly susceptible, but it can happen anywhere. There has also been a rash of catalytic converter thefts.

All areas are getting hit. Groups of people are coming into the county by the car load. They pick a neighborhood, split up and start checking for unlocked vehicles. If the keys are inside, they steal the car. If not, they search for guns and other valuables. Fritz said almost 100% of cars that are stolen had keys inside.

Through a multi-agency effort, law enforcement is working on the business end of the situation to find the people who are paying the thieves to go out and steal cars/goods; and to track and capture the groups as they arrive and depart. Progress is being made but it’s tough because they are in and out so fast.

Fritz said do whatever you can to secure your vehicles, “Park in a garage if you have one. Don’t let your car sit outside unsecured. Don’t leave valuables in sight. Never leave your vehicle running and unattended, in your driveway or anywhere, for even a few seconds.”

Fritz also talked about property theft from isolated buildings in rural areas – such as boats, ATVs, etc. from outbuildings. Most such crimes are unsolvable because there are no witnesses or security cameras.

Questions were asked about controlling speeding, especially on Foristell Road. Fritz said he said speeding is the number one complaint in most areas and his officers were aware. Days later, a flashing speed reminder sign was also positioned near the Park at New Melle Lakes for several days.

ROADS:

Amanda Brauer, Manager of SCC Roads and Traffic, said there is a ½ cent sales tax that helps fund road projects in the county. Upcoming projects in District 2 include:

  • A roundabout at Lake St. Louis Blvd and Veteran’s Memorial Parkway
  • Old Route N, connect with Summers Road and repave east to Route N
  • Caledonia Parkway, connect south outer road to Route DD at Route 64.
  • Route DD – widen and add a right turn lane to eastbound Route 64.
  • South Point Prairie, widen and add sidewalks from Interstate Drive to Route N.
  • Lake St. Louis Blvd – extend south to Route DD (Design & R.O.W. 2021.)
  • Wentzville Parkway Interchange improvements, roundabout (2021), and extension of Parkway to Interstate Drive (2022).
  • David Hoekel Parkway interchange at I-70, should be complete by year end.
  • Route Z and Route N intersection (2022.) Relocate the intersection and add stoplights.
  • Route N and Hopewell Road – relocate intersection, diminish curve.
  • Route Z – widening to 4 lanes from I-70 to Perry Cate. (2023-2024)
  • Improve Interstate Drive from Quail Ridge Park to Prospect Road.

MoDOT Projects:

  • Design work on improving the alignment of I-70 at the Railroad underpass in Wentzville.
  • I-70/I-64 interchange – study for potential improvements.
  • Route 94 Fix drainage at Defiance Road. Starts July 2021.

PARKS:

Ryan Graham, Director of Parks and Recreation, said the county parks department was established with the goal to preserve green space and historically significant sites in the county. The county currently owns 20 parks, 17 are open in varying degrees to the public, and 3 are in reserve for future use. Eight are located with St. Charles County District 2 (Quail Ridge, Broemmelsiek, Matson Hill, Klondike, Park at New Melle Lakes, Youth Activity Park, Lindenwood Park and Missouri Bluffs.) Most are designed for relatively passive recreation activities. There are no swimming pools or soccer fields.

The County tracks attendance at its park by counting vehicles, and estimated that attendance in 2020, was 4.5M people, nearly doubled the attendance 2019 – attributed in part to COVID-19.

Graham named improvement projects planned for the various parks, including reworking the entrance at Quail Ridge, a new destination playground at Broemmelsiek, a new shelter and restrooms at Matson Hill, new programs at Lindenwood and the Hays Home, a new boat dock at the Klondike river access, new group camping at Missouri Bluffs and much more.

At the Park at New Melle Lakes, planned improvements include a new maintenance facility, roadway and infrastructure improvements, an off-leash dog area, a destination playground, a new kayak launch area, and a planned “glamping” (high-end camping) area – to be located on the north side of Foristell Road, northeast of the New Melle VFW, along the western edge of the park property.

Graham said the idea for glamping came as a result of a public survey taken in 2018 when the park opened. At that time, the top five desired amenities were camping, natural surface trails, picnic shelters, fishing lakes and playgrounds – in that order.

A portion of the park (south side, off Holt road) was deeded to the county specifically for use as an off-leash dog park, and it will be one of the largest such areas in the nation. The camping facilities that are being planned at this time are high end camping features, aka “glamping”, featuring enhanced tables, paver patios, better fire rings, and lots of trees/vegetation buffers.

Graham said currently they are thinking about 20 camping sites plus a few additional URT camping (semi-permanent tent type structures.) tucked into the trees and landscape, as unobtrusively as possible, with additional hiking and biking trails.

The glamping site would be accessed via a new roadway off Foristell Road near the New Melle VFW. The New Melle City Clerk stated that the planned roadway is in a floodplain and cannot be built without the proper permit. Graham promised to look into that further.

One resident asked why the county would plan a camping area that is essentially next to the VFW trap shooting range; and also stated that allowing camping without any permanent overnight staffing is “a problem waiting to happen.” Graham said there are park rangers, but they are not licensed law enforcement officers. Graham said the county had also talked to the VFW and hopefully came up with a plan for that.

Another resident complained that the glamping area is too close to the homes in the Fiddlestix subdivision. Graham said in the winter time, from the glamping area, only the roof of one home is visible, however, they do plan to add additional vegetative buffers to improve that separation.

Graham said these would not be long-term camping sites. They will have electric only, no water/sewer or RV hookups. He anticipated short-term, weekend getaways for families, but said specific rules had not yet been established. Other concerns were raised about traffic and noise.

To expedite the discussion, Joe Brazil asked for a show of hands for how many people present were in favor of the park (a large majority of the nearly 100 people in attendance); and then how many were in favor of having camping at the park (very few hands were raised.) Brazil said the park plans are still in the conceptual design phase and he asked that park planners take into consideration the concerns of the neighboring residents. Brazil asked that people send additional comments/concerns to him and he will pass on to the Park planners and the County Council: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

STATE SENATOR ONDER

Senator Bob Onder, representing Missouri’s Second Congressional District also attended.

Onder talked about supporting Senate Bill 12 which would require a 2/3rd majority vote of the County Council before a health department could shut down groups of businesses/industries such as happened with the pandemic.

He also touched on election integrity, saying the COVID crisis was used as an excuse to undermine election integrity laws. He believes voter ID is a big part of that. He said paper ballots should be the gold standard of voting so that there was always a physical document that could be verified.

Onder also talked about making the ballot initiative process more difficult in order to discourage out of state interests from coming into Missouri and paying people to collect signatures to get issues put on the Missouri state ballot that do not reflect the state’s values and are difficult to undo. He said out of state influence almost radically changed how legislative districts would be drawn in Missouri, and also mentioned other issues such as the minimum wage mandate, Medicaid expansion and medical marijuana.

On the topic of crime, Onder said he is working on making it easier for judges to set bail in Missouri. Regarding transportation, Missouri general revenue is doing pretty good, but fraud and abuse in the Medicaid system needs to be reformed. For more information he said people could contact him via the www.senate.mo.gov website.

MAYOR WEST

New Melle Mayor and Missouri State Rep, Richard West, talked about the growth coming towards New Melle and urged people to stay involved. He said there is a large sewer treatment plant planned for Hopewell Road with plans to run sewer lines west to the County Line. He also said Public Water Supply District #2 is planning to bring county water west to the county line. “We have to prepare ourselves and stay involved,” he said. West pointed out several times that New Melle was not notified of meetings/discussions that affected this area, and asked County officials to be sure to include the City in any future comprehensive plan reviews and other discussions that involved this part of the county.

The meeting ended about 9:30 p.m.