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Wildwood City Council to vote on controversial fire house site

Wildwood City Council to vote on controversial fire house site

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Wildwood's City Council will vote April 26 on whether to override the Planning and Zoning Commission's recommendation to reject a Monarch Fire Protection District station proposed at 18304 Wild Horse Creek Road.

The 3-acre site is at the southeast corner of Wild Horse Creek and Eatherton roads, near the city's border with Chesterfield. A vacant house now sits on the property. 

The new facility would replace the district's more than 50-year-old House 2, at 18424 Wild Horse Creek Road, about a half mile from the new site, Rick Gans, a member of the fire district's board of directors said at a public hearing Monday night. 

“The current station can't adequately house larger (modern) firefighting equipment, EMS vehicles and our manpower,” Gans said.

But Planning and Zoning Commission members said they were concerned about traffic, noise and the visual impact to the surrounding area, where most homes sit on 3 acres or more.

“There was a concern with traffic leaving the station to go westbound," toward Missouri Highway 109, said Joe Vujnich, the city's director of planning and parks. Planning commissioners feared longer response times to emergency calls "if trucks have to maneuver through traffic jams,” he said.

Joshua Mandell with FGM Architects Inc., representing Monarch, said the district had looked at expanding the current House 2 site, but adjacent land owners were not interested in selling.

Assistant Fire Chief Les Crews said officials also had spoken with adjoining property owners of the new site and redesigned the station to address their concerns.

“We flipped a larger section of the building, redesigned a detention basin and removed a rear driveway,” he said.

“The retaining wall is being reduced in size, and a six-foot privacy fence will be on top of that wall. We will exceed Wildwood's minimums on tree preservation and maintain 61% of the tree canopy.”

He added that traffic should not be a problem.

“Pavement width from our driveway is 35 feet. Even if both lanes of Wild Horse Creek had traffic, they could pull to the side of the road, leaving 19 feet for us to drive a truck through,” he said.

However, Eric Tremayne, a neighboring resident, disagreed. 

“I drive Old Eatherton Road to Wild Horse Creek Road going westbound daily in rush-hour traffic. A car can't get through, and a fire truck wouldn't have a chance,” he said.

“This situation will greatly inhibit response time and is dangerous.”

He said the district should try harder to use the existing House 2 site.

Last June, district voters approved Proposition F, a $14.9 million general obligation bond issue and an accompanying 7-cent tax levy, to deal with aging infrastructure and to properly house apparatus and personnel, as well as up-to-date technologies that facilitate rapid emergency response, officials said.

Councilwoman Lauren Edens said 73% of voters approved Proposition F,  so “the neighbors feel there's a need for this. There is good reasoning for the location and design, they've worked with the city and homeowners, and they can't go on in their current facility,” she said.

Councilman Larry Brost acknowledged he was torn because “this plan puts in a wonderful new station, but my question is traffic — this new site would be a half mile farther away from all of Ward 1.”

Gans said, “We have determined the benefits of the site, including firefighters living in modern facilities, would outweigh the few seconds in increased response times for less than 10 residents.”

He added that the new station would allow use of a full-sized tanker truck, to carry water to areas in the district without hydrants.

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

Brost protested a lack of any district study on response time and traffic for the new site.

“You're telling us don't worry, everything will be fine,” he said.

Mayor Jim Bowlin said he opposed the plan. “I can't recall anyone else coming to the commission who said “just take our word for it” on traffic.”

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