The Clayton Board of Aldermen, at least a majority of the body, may be fine with a health insurance firm using a parcel of land on Maryland Avenue for child care and corporate education.
Many living in the neighborhood, though, aren’t quite as happy, and a simmering controversy over the company not allowing the public to use the green space on the land during non-business hours is on the verge of escalating.
“I think it’s really troubling to the Clayton residents that the Board of Aldermen, or any zoning agency, could engage in spot zoning, and that residents who live on those streets may not even have a standing to challenge that decision,” said Jamie Rehmann, a lawyer in St. Louis who owns a home in the neighborhood.
The acquisition of what had been a vacant lot previously used by the Clayton School District at 7510 Maryland Ave. in Clayton by Centene Corporation has been a sore point among nearby homeowners for several months.
Following the August 28 decision by the City Planning Commission to recommend the Board approve Centene’s conditional use permit subject to a number of conditions, one of which was that Centene “Provide green space for public use during non-business hours”, the board met to consider the recommendation.
At the September 12 Board of Aldermen meeting, the Mayor responded to the City Planning Commission’s recommendation and said that the city does not have authority to require Centene to grant public access to private property.
A month later at the board meeting on Tuesday night, the Board of Aldermen considered a motion from the group of concerned Clayton citizens under the name Protect Clayton Neighborhoods, which is appealing the board’s decision to grant Centene a conditional use permit application.
The group alleges the board approved an illegal zoning decision to allow Centene to operate as a “college or university” on a property that is located in a residential district and sandwiched between two residential streets, which would infringe upon a city ordinance, according to Rehmann.
The board docketed the appeal for consideration Tuesday night, but City Attorney Kevin O’Keefe has recommended it be denied without reaching the merits because the neighbors cannot show they are “harmed” by the board’s decision.
The group, represented by about 25 residences, asked and was granted a motion to delay in order to adequately respond to the legal recommendations by the Board of Aldermen until the next meeting on November 14.
“We certainly are not going to cut off any of your needs to come back with additional information,” Clayton Mayor Harold Sanger told the 15 members of Protect Clayton Neighborhoods in attendance. “I think we’re happy to hear what you have to say and I think you should take into consideration the advice we have from our counselor.
“We’re all citizens here and we’d like to hear what the issues are.”