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Monarch Fire District plans to build fire house without Wildwood permit

Monarch Fire District plans to build fire house without Wildwood permit

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WILDWOOD — After months of discussions with city officials, the Monarch Fire District board has decided to move ahead with plans to build a fire house at Wild Horse Creek and Eatherton roads.

In a May 3 letter to the city, the president of the fire district's board of directors said the district was proceeding. “We have regrettably reached the point that we must terminate this untenable situation and simply build our fire station,” Rick Gans wrote.

The letter stated that although the district was “happy to work in cooperation with Wildwood to do as much as we could to meet their guidelines and be good neighbors, never in our wildest imagination did we envision the situation that has unfolded over the past eight months and continues unresolved.”

The Wildwood Planning and Zoning Commission voted in February against issuing a conditional use permit for the fire station. Council members at first overrode that recommendation, but then last month decided to reconsider their decisionThe council was concerned about emergency vehicles and traffic mixing on narrow roads and at congested intersections, such as Wild Horse Creek and Highway 109. 

Most recently, the council had requested a traffic study as it debated whether to grant the permit. But the fire protection district said it would not conduct nor pay for a traffic study.

The City Council voted 13-2 Monday to proceed with the study. Council members Lauren Edens and Don Bartoni were opposed.

Mayor Jim Bowlin said, “While the expense of this study must now unfortunately be borne by Wildwood residents, it is nevertheless necessary to confirm all the claims made to the city relative to traffic as part of the permit process.” 

The new facility would replace a station that is more than 50 years old and sits about a half mile from the new site, at 18424 Wild Horse Creek Road. District officials have said the current station can't accommodate larger, modern firefighting equipment, emergency medical services vehicles and staff.

Monarch covers almost 63 square miles and serves more than 60,000 people in all or parts of Ballwin, Chesterfield, Clarkson Valley, Creve Coeur, Maryland Heights, Wildwood and unincorporated St. Louis County.

In his letter this month, Gans wrote that while the council might have an interest in issues such as call volumes, equipment turning radius, response times and more, such matters related to public safety are the purview of the district and its board.   “We will not accept conditions placed upon us by another government agency for matters we are empowered by state statute to oversee,” he said.

A resolution adopted by the district on April 30 said “the district has incurred extensive additional costs due to the requests and demands” of city officials, and the district will proceed with the bidding process and construction of the new house.

Gans added that district officials “look forward to having members of Wildwood government at the ribbon-cutting ceremony when it takes place at the completion of construction.”

But the mayor wrote in a May 10 memo to the council that, according to the Federal Emergency Management Agency's U.S. Fire Administration, fire and emergency services must be aware of all required permits and approvals, and must be sure they can be obtained before purchasing a site.

“Per the record of the conditional use permit request, this did not occur,” Bowlin wrote.

“Similarly, the record also shows that there was no contingency included in Monarch's real estate sale contract for the new location that could have conditioned its obligation to purchase the property on satisfaction of all permits and approvals … ."

He added that city officials are concerned about “the potential impact of the new location on the safety of our residents and others in the community, given its placement on a narrow, frequently congested two-lane road with no pull-off areas. It was for this reason at its last meeting the City Council approved of requiring a traffic study from Monarch.”

Bowlin said the city is obligated to determine whether the district's requests are in the best interest of residents and “of foremost concern in that process is the impact on our residents' safety.”

He called Monarch's position “regrettable,” adding that the city would proceed with the traffic study.  

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