In front of a standing room only crowd at the Creve Coeur Planning and Zoning Commission public hearing Monday night, more than 20 residents spoke about a Delmar Gardens proposal that would build skilled, independent and assisted living facilities on 28 acres of land on Ladue Road near Interstate 270.
All but one who spoke voiced opposition to the plan, which has been in the works for more than a year and the source of community conversation for longer than that.
The proposal, which would serve 340 seniors, in addition to the 10 single-family houses that would also be on the site, received praise from city planners for the quality it promised, but Director of Community Development Paul Langdon voiced what a city report on the project laid out last week, that being the belief that the project doesn't meet standards in the city's Comprehensive Plan that would endorse the rezoning necessary.
Delmar Gardens Executive Vice President Howard Oppenheimer focused his pitch on what he called the "exploding" need for senior care, as did President Gabe Grossberg, who recalled the process the company went through in 1978 to get approval of the facility located in what is now Chesterfield. He recalled the opposition from one man who would later visit the facility when his own family had a need for Delmar services.
But the area that may have generated the most outward skepticism from residents in the audience. was the project's traffic study. The study suggested that there would be more traffic in a project that consisted of 28 single family homes with an entrance adjacent to the Ladue Pines subdivision, than the proposed project, which would instead share an entrance with Thompson Counseling Center property.
One resident called that premise "farsical", while another noted that the analysis, which was done in 2010, doesn't account for conditions there now, considering the completed Highway 141 corridor. Others questioned the accuracy of the numbers given the amount of visitor and vendor traffic at the site.
A report detailing the city's own analysis of traffic in that area, was not completed in time for Monday's meeting.
"Preserve Ladue Road or Destroy It"
Several people spoke of how they felt the project would be out of character for the area, pointing to the few commercial uses anywhere along Ladue Rd. from 141 to Clayton.
Judy Wasserman, a resident who handed in a petition Monday with 123 signatures opposed to the development, called on P&Z panelists to "Preserve Ladue Rd. or destroy it," with their action on the project.
A handful of participants suggested as one did that Delmar Gardens was essentially "holding the property hostage."
Commissioners voted unanimously to hold off on making a recommendation on the plan until the panel's November 5 meeting when the city's traffic analysis would be completed.
Grossberg declined an opportunity to respond directly to the residents during the public hearing, but afteward told Patch:
"We totally disagree with the connotation of a senior care retirement community that offers all the levels of care that a senior citizen needs from independent to therepay services and assisted living that is in our opinion not a commercial project at all, it is a residential project."
He added that the idea Delmar Gardens would hold the property hostage "was nauseating" to him and that it couldn't be farther from the truth. He cited the support the project has received from neighbors who are immediately adjacent to the site, even if, as he kidded after the meeting, some of them may have been home watching the St. Louis Cardinals take on the San Francisco Giants in the National League Championship series.
Geore Hansford, who owns some of that adjacent land, rose in support of the proposal and was thankful for how Delmar Gardens had addressed erosion issues in the area.
"I want to see some closure on the property," Hansford said.
That may be something everyone in the standing room only crowd, which included Mayor Barry Glantz and several members of the Creve Coeur City Council, could agree on.