A longtime Sunset Hills resident believes preserving a piece of his family's land will not only prove to be a memorial to his heritage, but to the city's history. While some neighbors flat-out oppose public activities at the former Paraclete Fathers property, others want more information on a proposed cultural center's wear and tear to their residential streets.
The majority of the city's planning and zoning commission members approved a recommendation made by Alwal “Al” Moore to include cultural centers as a conditional use in R-1 zones, but tabled the decision to recommend cultural center on the Paracletes property, in the Tapawingo subdivisions, until next month's meeting.
Several neighbors to the property expressed their concern over the center's proposed uses, and generally wanted more information on its impact to the area's homeowners.
Moore, who served as the city’s first Marshall, hopes to preserve 10 acres of land that were once owned by his family for a multi-use campus called the Moore Cultural Center.
The property was controlled by the Paraclete Fathers until just a few years ago. Before then it was owned by the Griesedieck family, of which Moore is a descendant.
"When [the property] came up for sale I could see my history, Hills' history, go away," Moore told commission members, and said he was compelled to buy it himself.
He told commission members one of his main objectives is preventing the historic buildings from being demolished and turned into residential properties.
Last year an effort to purchase the property from Moore and convert it into a city park fell through, according to Suburban Journals. The plan for the park would have required removal of campus buildings, according to the report.
The site’s carriage house was proposed as a new home for the St. Louis Children’s Illustrated Art Museum, according to South County Times. Moore previously told the South County Times that he considered also using the property to house the city’s first public library, the report said.
Moore is now working with the Children’s Illustrated Art Museum’s founder, Jeanne Johnston, to develop the cultural center concept.
The land, near Tapawingo National Golf Club, is surrounded by three residential subdivisions. While the surrounding streets are not gated, they are maintained by the three homeowners’ associations, according to Lamitola.
Tom Cox noted he came to the meeting with “more questions than comments.” Several residents, most of which said they live in close proximity to the property and noted they have small children, wanted more information on the possible traffic impact.
Were there clearer estimates on the amount of traffic? Would there be delivery trucks? School buses? Would new traffic pose a safety hazard to playing children? Would the cultural center also become responsible for the care and keeping of streets?
“We have just as much as an investment, collectively, as Moore,” Cox said.
Other residents expressed a desire for more information on its uses, and whether the venue would have an effect on residential property values.
A couple residents testified that they specifically ensured the zoning of the Paracletes property would remain residential when they first purchased their own properties. Tim Strege argued that altering the zoning wasn’t fair to homeowners.
Some neighbors along Caddyshack Circle expressed support.
There did seem to be a consensus that the land should be kept from further residential development.
“If something sustainable does not go in there… we won’t be left with trees and open space,” Drew Baebler said.