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Bluffs development gets final vote

FILE PHOTO: A cyclist enters a section of the Katy Trail in St. Charles County on Monday, June 25, 2018, in the Weldon Spring Conservation Area just below the Missouri Bluffs Golf Club property where a controversial proposed Bluffs housing project is planned overlooking the Missouri River. Photo by Christian Gooden, cgooden@post-dispatch.com

After its controversial decision to sell 135 acres it owns on the bluffs overlooking the Missouri River to a housing developer, the University of Missouri said Friday it wants to preserve 100 acres in St. Charles County not slated for new housing.

The university is seeking public agencies willing to buy the roughly 200 acres containing the Missouri Bluffs Golf Club and an additional 100 adjacent acres just west of Highway 40 (Interstate 64) in unincorporated St. Charles County. The university said 46 of those acres along the Katy Trail would be restricted for use as trails and public space. All 100 acres would be open to the public.

The golf course is governed by a long-term lease that prevents development for 74 years.

“We have attended several public meetings and met with many interested parties about the future of this land,” Kevin Hogg, the university’s director of real estate and business services said in a statement. “After listening to the feedback, we determined that the best action was to offer this property for sale to public entities with specific development restrictions as part of any contract. This will guarantee the land remains in a natural state for generations of Missourians.”

The university is under contract to sell another portion of that land it owns just south of the Missouri Research Park to housing developer Greg Whittaker for development as 276 housing units.

Many Katy Trail enthusiasts and conservation advocates decried the university’s move, first announced in late 2017. St. Charles County’s Planning and Zoning Commission recommended against the housing plan. But the St. Charles County Council overrode that decision in June.

An environmental group sued St. Charles County to block the development in August but dropped the lawsuit in February.

University of Missouri System spokesman Christian Basi said the plan to preserve a portion of the land and keep it open to the public was not the result of a settlement or deal from the litigation. But he said the university took concerns from those plaintiffs and residents in the area into consideration.

“There’s other land there that we own and this is a way we can make sure that other land that surrounds this area will stay as undeveloped as possible,” Basi said.

The university’s request for qualifications is looking only for pitches from public agencies. Responses are due by April 30.

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