ST. CHARLES — The St. Charles County Council delayed without discussion a final vote Monday on a contested proposal to build up to 221 residences on the Missouri Bluffs near the Katy Trail.
The delay is the latest council move on long-standing plans by developer Greg Whittaker of NT Builders LLC to build 161 single-family homes and up to 60 multifamily units on the edge of the Missouri Bluffs Golf Club near Highway 40 (Interstate 64) on public land he plans to buy from the University of Missouri.
The project, first announced in late 2017, has long been opposed by environmental groups, local residents and trail enthusiasts who have packed St. Charles County meetings to voice concerns the project would permanently mar the landscape and detract from the experience of people using the Katy Trail.
“Today it’s a handful of houses and apartments surrounded by woods, tomorrow, more trees will fall to make room for Starbucks and a gas station,” Ed Shew, 69, of unincorporated St. Charles County said Monday. “Before you know it, everything that makes the Missouri Bluffs special will be a distant memory.”
Last year, the council approved the concept for the subdivision in a 5-1 vote that was met with a chorus of boos from the crowd of several dozen in the council chambers. But developers need to gain approval on a more detailed layout and lot design of the plan before they can break ground.
Approval from five of seven council members will be needed for the project to pass, after the county’s planning and zoning commission voted 5-2 to recommend the council reject NT Builders’ layout and lot design, which requests a number of exceptions to county ordinances. Among other considerations, the design calls for narrower roads and development on steeper slopes than usually allowed.
John Hickey, president of the Missouri chapter of the Sierra Club and an opponent of the subdivision, said the council would be bending the rules for NT Builders’ profit if it approves the plan.
“It seems to me there’s one set of rules for everyone else, but if you have got the access, the rules change for you,” Hickey said during public comment before the vote. “The planning and zoning people don’t have to like it. The slope disturbance doesn’t have to be right. You just have to have the connections.”
The County Council twice delayed a final vote last year on the concept plan to allow NT Builders to revise the project in response to environmentalists’ concerns, including reducing the number of planned dwellings and setting aside 62 acres between the housing tract and the Katy Trail for conservation.
The plans submitted before the council Monday included changes from the concept plan the council approved last year that reduced the number of dwellings from 276 to 221 and set aside a little more than 47 acres for a publicly managed park. Developers on the project have said the revisions will help conserve the land.
Brad Goss, attorney for Whittaker and NT Builders, said Monday there are about 250 people who have signed a letter supporting the project. About a dozen people, including an engineer who worked on the subdivision plans, stood up when Goss asked for supporters to rise.
“There are a lot of people who do support this development,” Goss said.
Of the group that stood up during the meeting, several people declined to be identified when asked by a reporter after the meeting. Goss also declined to comment and declined to share the letter of supporters’ signatures.
Council member Joe Cronin, who introduced the measure Monday to delay the final vote, said the council needs more time to discuss the layout plans but declined to provide more details.
“We think we need a little more time to debate and look at all of the issues involved in this project,” he said.
Meanwhile, the county is in final talks to buy from the University of Missouri and preserve about 100 acres of neighboring land not slated for housing. The county would purchase roughly 200 acres containing the Missouri Bluffs Golf Club and an additional 100 acres just west of Highway 40.
The university has said 46 of those acres along the Katy Trail would be restricted for use as trails and public space. About 100 acres would be open to the public.