DARDENNE PRAIRIE • One of the most coveted pieces of land in St. Charles County may finally be making the transition from soybeans to subdivision under a plan to build a 266-home housing development near Feise and Bryan roads.
McKelvey Homes has 106 acres of the roughly 175 acres of farmland owned by the Bopp family under contract and plans to develop the new $120 million “Inverness” subdivision with Lombardo Homes and Payne Family Homes.
“It’s probably the most sought-after neighborhood farm in St. Charles (County),” said McKelvey Homes President Jim Brennan. “I’ve been drooling over it for years. It’s just a prime, prime location. We were very fortunate to be the successful acquirer of the property.”
Over the years, the Bopp family farmland has slowly been surrounded by cul-de-sacs and shopping centers. It’s now a conspicuous dark green spot amidst a sea of subdivisions in what’s referred to as the “golden triangle” of St. Charles County — the area bounded by Interstates 70 and 64 and the Missouri River.
The remaining undeveloped farmland in the heart of St. Charles County is disappearing. Just this year, Lombardo Homes won approval to develop a 253-home subdivision on the former Sandfort farm just north of Interstate 70 in the city of St. Charles.
“The land is scarce in this golden triangle here,” Brennan said.
So far, the subdivision plan does not appear to have triggered the consternation that followed a commercial rezoning request on part of the Bopp tract five years ago. Though Dardenne Prairie aldermen ultimately approved commercial zoning despite the objections of some neighbors in nearby subdivisions, stores and parking lots never materialized.
The Dardenne Prairie Planning and Zoning Commission is scheduled to review the subdivision plan at its meeting Wednesday evening. McKelvey and its partners held an open house to discuss the plan with nearby residents last month, and Dardenne Prairie Mayor David Zucker said it seemed well-received.
“I didn’t sense any particular opposition,” he said. Some people mentioned the potential for traffic and stormwater issues, “but by and large, people looked at it and said that looks pretty good.”
Approval for the subdivision could come in the next month or so, and Brennan said he hopes to begin construction in the spring and have the first homes ready for sale in about a year. Houses should range in size from 1,600 to 4,000 square feet and fetch prices of between $300,000 and $800,000, he said.
Calling it an “innovative plan,” Brennan touted variable setbacks throughout the development to reduce a “cookie-cutter” appearance. Trails will run between houses and cul-de-sacs, offering an alternative to the sidewalk.
Meanwhile, the remaining 68 acres of the Bopp farm closer to the intersection of Bryan and Feise roads is without a plan or buyer despite being teed up for development. A small-format Walmart grocery store planned for the corner never materialized.
Gary Feder, an attorney at Husch Blackwell who represents the Bopp family, said a commercial plan for the remaining acreage submitted to the city in June is on hold while the McKelvey housing plan is finalized.
But even that commercial rezoning plan did not have any tenants or builders in mind, he said, and was designed to prepare the area for eventual development.
“Once McKelvey is approved by the city of Dardenne Prairie, we would resubmit our plan for the rest of the property,” Feder said.
Final plans for the 68 acres could include more residential development, but Feder said he expects at least some of the land closest to the intersection to become commercial.
“That’s probably what we’ll be looking at over the next few months,” he said. “I think the city of Dardenne Prairie would like to see some of that devoted to residential, but how much remains to be seen.”
In the meantime, Feder’s client, Dardenne Prairie and the city of O’Fallon, Mo., have to work out a deal on road improvements. Feise Road is controlled by Dardenne Prairie while Bryan Road is controlled by O’Fallon, and Bryan Road needs curb cuts and other infrastructure to make commercial development there workable, Feder said.
“That issue has still not been satisfactorily resolved,” he said.
O’Fallon has maintained that it wanted to see the project get further along before talks begin in earnest, Feder said. Memories of the annexation race among St. Charles municipalities last decade — including a lawsuit Dardenne Prairie filed against O’Fallon back then over one of the larger city’s annexations — could color those negotiations.
“There’s no doubt there is some history here,” Feder said.
Zucker, the Dardenne Prairie mayor, and Brennan, the McKelvey president, say they’d like to see at least some commercial development on part of the remaining land to serve nearby residents. Brennan hopes to perhaps connect it to the subdivision with trails.
“Who knows whether 68 acres of commercial development will come to pass,” Zucker said. “It might and it might not.”
But he said it’s “obvious” at least the 16 acres at the corner of the two big roads will be. “That just screams commercial.”
The site is one of the largest remaining chunks of green space in St. Charles County’s heavily built-up eastern end. It is between Zumbehl and Truman roads.
St. Charles County's biggest city expects to grow by nearly 40,000 people in the next 20 years.