Clayton aldermen have returned to the city's Plan Commission a proposal that would amend zoning code to permit bank drive-throughs near homes in some neighborhoods.
They also asked that City Manager Craig Owens and planning director Susan Istenes engage in further conversation with Fifth Third Bank and Green Street Real Estate Ventures, which want the opportunity to that would have included the drive-throughs.
"I'm just wondering if it would be a good idea to send it back to the planning commission and let them flesh this out further and get some more public input," Ward 2 Alderman Cynthia Garnholz said.
At issue is whether drive-through establishments for financial institutions should be permitted in C-1 Neighborhood Commercial Zoning Districts such as those found on Maryland Avenue and Clayton Road.
The Plan Commission heard a presentation about amending the C-1 zoning code previously, but a number of its members could not attend that meeting. It voted 2-2 on the issue, resulting in some question about whether the commission made a definitive recommendation to aldermen about the issue.
Husch Blackwell attorney Gary Feder represents both companies. On Tuesday night, he repeated his presentation about the amendment proposal to aldermen at the request of Mayor Linda Goldstein and also provided updates.
"All I'm asking for is the right to submit an application," Feder said. He said that Clayton property is never cheap and that when companies are interested in investing millions of dollars in the city, it's well worth the opportunity to consider the proposals.
He reiterated his assertion that only a simple majority of four favorable votes by aldermen would be necessary to approve the amendment. He said it's his understanding that City Attorney Kevin O'Keefe thinks a five-vote super majority is needed.
Fifth Third representatives met with City Manager Craig Owens and planning director Susan Istenes two weeks ago and learned the city wanted a more pedestrian-friendly design for that section of Maryland, Feder said. As a result, Fifth Third on Monday submitted a new proposal that would have a second building for another business.
It's unknown at this time what business would fill that spot, he said.
Green Street and Fifth Third also are willing to have the text amendment only apply to the Maryland Gateway District, as opposed to other parts of the city with the same zoning, Feder said.
There is precedent for that in city code, Feder said: The section of Maryland Avenue between Brentwood and Forsyth boulevards only permits six types of uses, as opposed to the dozens of uses allowed in other similarly zoned areas.
Ward 2 Alderman Cynthia Garnholz asked why a text amendment to the city's zoning code would be superior to rezoning the land.
"It creates a different set of issues," Feder said. "This, from Day One, seemed to be the cleanest." Challenges could include engaging in private deed restrictions with neighboring property owners.
Four audience members spoke out against amending the zoning code.
"I'm concerned that it is precedent-setting," said Erik Sartorius, a Clayton resident who lives on Seminole Drive. His property abuts land that is zoned as C-1. He added: "I can assure you that noise pollution, air pollution, light pollution … is certainly a possibility."
After audience member comments, Feder said the site proposed by Green Street—currently occupired by the Mini of St. Louis car dealership—has always been used as a drive-through. He said proceeding with the conditional-use permit process would allow the city to examine concerns raised at the meeting.
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