Town and Country aldermen voted unanimously to once again the set the city's 2012 property tax rates at zero cents. As previously reported by Town and Country - Manchester Patch, residents in Town and Country do not currently pay a city property tax. Each year, cities across St. Louis County have to set their property tax rates.
Aldermen also heard from Ilya Eydelman, the owner of Raintree Learning Community who wants to move his nature-based school from Ballwin to Town and Country off Mason Road near Manchester Road. Despite a handful of residents speaking out against the project in August, the Town and Country Planning and Zoning Commission approved the preliminary site development plan for the new school at 2000 to 2016 Amonte Drive.
Alderman Fred Meyland-Smith, who also sits on the Town and Country Planning and Zoning Commission, told aldermen Monday that "considerable discussion" has taken place on the matter. He pointed out planning and zoning voted 6:1 in favor of the application for the preliminary site plan.
"I think it's important to know that the residents who live immediately adjacent to the school are in support of the matter," Meyland-Smith said.
Eydelman wants build a new "green" facility for 70 preschool and kindergarten students Town and Country. He said 32 students are currently enrolled in the school.
Eydelman previously provided the city with a petition of households he said are in support of the construction.
Monday night, Town and Country resident Scott Martin submitted a petition of 51 names who are not in support of the school. He said the signatures are those of residents within one mile of the proposed school who live in the Sturbridge and Van Cortland subdivisions.
Martin also reiterated residents' concerns of traffic, development and a commercial property being built in a residential area. He said constructing the facility commits the city to keeping that lot from becoming residential and if the school eventually moves out, the city is limited on what can move in and it will have to be commercial.
"We just don't believe this is the proper location for a school," Martin said.
Martin also tells Patch residents are concerned that increased development along Mason Road will eventually result in the road being widened.
"We don't want it to turn into a Clarkson Road," Martin tells Patch. "I mean they're already talking about it. Should there be a left turn lane, a right turn lane?"
However, Meyland-Smith tells Patch the city can't just let the land sit there vacant any longer.
Andrew Cathlina, managing director with The Private Bank, spoke to aldermen Monday night. He tells Patch the bank owns the property now and has been involved with the development for the last five years. He said there has been very little interest in the property.
Parents of current and former Raintree students also addressed aldermen in support of the school and shared their beliefs of it being an asset to Town and Country.
"My daughter was the first student at Raintree Learning Community," Julie Bollman said. "I could not have been more happy with my daughter's education at Raintree. The lessons my daughter learned are evident six years later."
Bollman also said that as the publisher of St. Louis Kids Magazine, she got to know the owners on a business level and vouched for them as reliable business owners and dedicated educators.
"As a homeowner, I would welcome Raintree Learning Community into my neighborhood and I would gladly live next door to their fantastic school," Bollman said. "They have proven themselves to be active in their community, careful stewards of the land they inhabit, highly responsible businesspeople and devoted educators whose passion for enriching the lives of young children is rarely found. Their school would be an asset to any community."
However, as during the planning and zoning commission meetings, traffic was once again discussed at length, this time among aldermen.
Previously, Eydelman provided the city with a traffic study conducted by Crawford, Bunte, Brammeier, Traffic and Transportation Engineers, a firm hired by Raintree. It showed the school should have "little impact" on traffic in the area. Town and Country's traffic engineer also reviewed the traffic study and is satisfied with the results.
"The way that our pick-up and and drop-off is structured, we just don't have the type of traffic you typically associate with this type of setting," Eydelman told aldermen.
"Obviously, there's going to be some traffic," explained Lee Cannon, traffic engineer with Crawford, Bunte, Brammeier, Traffic and Transportation Engineers. He told aldermen his firm studied the impact the new school would have on the area. "I believe that the road is adequately designed to cover this level of traffic."
He also said at the school's current enrollment of 32, they are averaging approximately one car per six minutes during the two hour drop-off and pick-up times.
Aldermen Chuck Lenz said he visited the school at its current Ballwin location during its 7 a.m. to 9 a.m. drop off time last week.
"I only saw cars coming one or two at a time, in five or ten minute intervals," Lenz said. "I was quite frankly surprised to see how staggered... there was never a back-up of cars during the entire drop off."
Cannon said even if the school's enrollment increased, he did not foresee a traffic issue being created by the new facility.
"We found that no physical improvements were going to be required," Cannon told aldermen. Although he said engineers thought it would be appropriate to paint a stop bar and post a stop sign for traffic exiting the school.
Mayor Jon Dalton addressed concerns he said he was hearing from residents.
"You've got a substantial amount of space for expansion," Mayor Jon Dalton said Monday night. He expressed concerns that the school may want to expand in the future due to the ability it would have for growth and that could create potential problems with traffic and development.
"We've go to deal with land use issues," Dalton added.
However, Eydelman reiterated the goal for his school is to remain a smaller learning environment for students and said he would remain within his proposed enrollment guidelines.
Although neighbors still have concerns of over traffic and development in the area, those who live closest to the proposed school site once again spoke in support of Raintree moving into that location.
"I really am in support of it. I have not seen any other viable plan for that property," the closest neighbor Didi Noelker told aldermen.
She and her husband welcome the school and Didi feels that the way the property has sat for years has negatively affected nearby neighbors' property values. She also said the overgrown brush in that area creates a safety issue for Mason Road drivers and hopes the construction of the school will bring some removal of the brush and make the line of sight better for drivers.
Cannon said cutting back the vegetation will provide better visibility.
Final approval for the school's preliminary site plan could be voted on at the next board of aldermen meeting Sept. 24.
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