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Proposed St. Louis County complex in Frontenac

A rendering of the St. Louis County History and Genealogy Center and Administrative Office proposed for Frontenac. Provided by the St. Louis County Library.

CLAYTON — A circuit judge in St. Louis County said Friday that he would give “most prompt attention” to a decision on whether a lawsuit by the city of Frontenac seeking to block construction of a St. Louis County Library administrative building and genealogy center should proceed.

But the issue is not likely to be settled before the 6-acre site at Clayton and Spoede roads is prepared for development. Judge Stanley Wallach set a conference in the case for Nov. 21.

At a hearing on Friday, James Hetlage, a lawyer for the library, argued Frontenac’s suit should be dismissed because the city does not have standing to file it. The library has argued that the state constitution gives it the authority to move forward with construction regardless of local zoning because the library district is a subdivision of the state with power equal to a municipality.

Edward Sluys, a lawyer for Frontenac, said the city still had an interest in making sure the complex was safe for the public and that the library is still bound to develop the property for an “appropriate use.” The library should not be permitted to unilaterally decide what use is appropriate, he said. “There has to be some review.”

The lawsuit asks the court to issue a preliminary and permanent injunction stopping the construction “because the district refuses to engage in meaningful discussion about the appropriate use” of the land in question.

The proposed $20 million building has faced strong opposition from some area residents, who have complained about the potential impact on traffic and other issues.

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Most of the site preparation is done. The purchased houses on the site have been demolished, and trees have been cleared. Retaining walls are being built.

In August, St. Louis County Councilman Tim Fitch, R-3rd District, asked County Executive Sam Page to remove all five members of the Library Board of Trustees because they were serving on expired terms and “are not responsible to any elected body.”

Wallach told the parties that he learned about the controversy surrounding the board through news reports and asked whether he should take it into account. “Does it diminish their authority?”

“Absolutely not,” Hetlage responded, telling the judge that it was common for appointees to remain in office after the expiration of their terms.

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