Opponents of a planned $49 million Walmart Supercenter in Ellisville are proceeding with recall efforts for some City Council members who voted in favor of the proposal and the public financing for it.
Organizers said they had feared a setback when the City Council came up with a Nov. 6 ballot proposal that would have amended the city charter to make recalls more difficult.
The proposed legislation was placed on the agenda for the Aug. 15 regular council meeting, but suddenly withdrawn the next day from the agenda of a special council meeting.
The charter change would have mandated that future recall petitions be based only on a council member's misconduct in office, incompetence, or failure to perform duties prescribed by law.
Councilman Matt Pirrello suggested the legislation to bring the city's charter into compliance with the state constitution, which says an elected official can only be recalled for cause. Ellisville's charter doesn't mandate that removal can only be for cause.
"And it seems wrong that elected officials have to live in fear of reprisal for every decision they make," Pirrello said.
He said the ballot measure would have applied only to future recall efforts and not any recall in the pipeline now.
But on Aug. 16, with Pirrello absent from the special meeting, Councilman Troy Pieper asked to have the legislation withdrawn. Pieper said he'd put considerable thought into the proposal "and I feel it's not the right time for this charter amendment."
The withdrawal was approved by a 6-0 vote, with about two dozen in the audience applauding. Pirrello later said he agreed the timing was wrong for the legislation.
In a related matter, the council is expected to take a final vote on Sept. 5 on a conditional use permit for the 155,553-square-foot Walmart building. Sansone Group, the project developer, and Walmart already have agreed to reduce their request for tax incentives, while doubling the amount of relocation money being offered to the about 130 residents of the Clarkchester Apartments.
Many residents and some city officials have said they were opposed to potential noise and traffic congestion problems, the forced relocation of tenants of the Clarkchester Apartments, and 24-hour operation of the store, which would be located along Manchester just west of Kiefer Creek Road.
The council approved a first reading on the conditional use permit legislation at the council meeting on Aug. 15 with Linda Reel and Mayor Adam Paul opposed.
Council member Dawn Anglin asked that city staff try to accommodate residents' concerns regarding planned medians in Manchester Road; a traffic signal at Weis Avenue and Manchester; an escrow fund for possible traffic calming measures that may be needed on Weis; and sound walls at the Walmart.
Paul asked the final vote on that issue be delayed until Sept. 5. Paul also had objected to a first reading of the charter change ballot legislation on Aug. 15, causing the vote to be delayed until the special council meeting the following night.
Elizabeth Schmidt, a resident of the Clarkchester Apartments who belongs to the Ellisville Article 9 Alliance that's trying to recall five council members, said she was pleased the possible ballot issue was being dropped. She insisted the current recall process is difficult enough to navigate to deter any frivolous recalls.