Ellisville residents fear that adding medians and a new traffic signal could lead to traffic snarls on Manchester Road.
The medians and signal have been proposed as part of a $49 million Walmart planned for Manchester Road, just west of Clarkson Road.
The traffic improvements have become another point of controversy between residents and city officials, who are at odds over the use of tax increment financing, the forced relocation of tenants of an apartment complex, and the necessity of the retail giant's locating in the city.
Changes in the amount of public financing and an increase in the relocation benefit for Clarkchester Apartment Complex residents — announced at a July 11 planning and zoning committee meeting — failed to dampen residents' distaste.
"It's been clear from the start that this project isn't favored by a majority of residents and we are looking at increased congestion, noise and crime in an area that's already congested," Planning and Zoning Commissioner Dan Duffy said.
Duffy and Greg Sanborn opposed a conditional use permit at the planning meeting. The project won a recommendation by a vote of 5-2. Carl Hoffman and Skip Adams were absent.
Ellisville's City Council will hold a public hearing Wednesday, July 18, on the permit for the 156,000-square-foot building at 15970-16012 Manchester Road.
The recommendation from the planning commission means the project must win four out of the seven city council and mayoral votes. At least five "yes" votes would have been necessary if the commission rejected the project.
Sansone Group, the project developer, and Walmart have agreed to reduce their request for tax increment financing from $15 million to $10.8 million.
Sansone also will not pursue a Transportation Development District or a Community Improvement District, each of which would have added another $2.1 million to the TIF.
The drop in TIF financing will cut the sales tax at the proposed store by 2 percent.
Sansone Group also announced plans to double the minimum cash relocation benefit required by law for residents of the Clarkchester Apartment Complex, from $1,000 to $2,000. The tenants — about 130 residents in 85 apartments — can choose either the enhanced relocation benefit or their actual relocation costs.
However, many of the more than 50 residents attending the planning commission meeting were most concerned about a package of newly announced traffic changes that will affect their neighborhoods as a result of the 24-hour Walmart operations.
The traffic improvements were worked out between Sansone, Walmart, Ellisville and the Missouri Department of Transportation, which oversees Manchester Road, which is a state highway.
The traffic improvements would include:
• Installation of a new traffic signal at Weis Avenue and Manchester Road. Motorists would be able to make U-turns at the light in either direction along Manchester.
• A southbound left turn lane at Weis at Manchester.
• Subject to MoDOT approval, U-turns would be allowed at Henry Road and Old State Road on Manchester.
• Installation of a right turn deceleration lane into the Walmart for eastbound Manchester traffic.
• Medians on Manchester between Clarkson/Kiefer Creek and Old State roads would be extended and some new medians would be added, including landscaping and lighting.
• Five existing driveways and one street entrance on the south side of Manchester in the Walmart project area would be replaced with two driveways only.
• Cross traffic access would be provided to properties to Walmart's east and west.
Bill Voss, owner of an office building at 16024 Manchester Road, protested that the medians would hinder customers trying to turn into his property and that cross access would mean the loss of some of his parking spaces.
"Medians will be a problem for those of us living on Covert Lane and wanting to turn into our street," John Ruprecht said.
Although most of the residents spoke against the improvements, others brought up the removal of the apartment complex and environmental problems with the Walmart site.
Julie Dolan, of LeMar Drive, said dioxin contamination has been found on various sites in Ellisville. Walmart intends to investigate the claim as part of the environmental remediation planned for the site, part of which had been used as an auto dealership and had oil tank leakage, said Rick Rohlfing, who is with Walmart's BFA engineering firm.
Leonard Suiter called it "bad planning" to eliminate the Clarkchester Apartments that have acted as a buffer between commercial properties on Manchester and homes, like his own, on Macklin Drive.
Ray Massey, one of the owners of the Clarkchester Apartments, was one of only two who spoke in favor of the Walmart project, saying it would "guarantee the financial future of Ellisville."