A sealed letter taped to her front door is how Jan Wolf found out she must move her business, the Jazzercise Oakville Fitness Center, located at 4220 Telegraph Road in the Telegraph South Shopping Center.
Wolf found the “Notice to Terminate Tenancy” letter May 23. She must relocate her 14-year-old franchise on or before June 30. It sits on property for a proposed, freestanding 24-hour Dunkin' Donuts with a drive-through window currently in progress with her landlord.
“We are in active negotiations with Dunkin’ Donuts,” said Cathey Stahl, manager with Webster Groves-based Breihan Properties, which is associated with the shopping center’s owner, Elsworth Breihan Building Company. “We think it will benefit the county, the community and the tenants.”
Wolf does not share that opinion.
Since April 11, Wolf has mounted a campaign to save her business location. That’s when a fellow Jazzercise instructor, who also works at the Missouri Department of Transportation, saw a petition for a conditional use permit for a Dunkin’ Donuts at the site occupied by Wolf’s franchise. Until then, Wolf was clueless about the development.
Michael Geller, a New Yorker who received his MBA and law degree from Washington University, is listed as the petitioner for the conditional use permit and owns a Dunkin' Donuts location in Kirkwood.
As of today, the St. Louis County Department of Planning has not issued the permit for the Oakville facility.
“It’s on hold,” said Gail Choate, the county’s land use manager. In a later email, she added, "The conditional use permit has not been approved to date."
This runs contrary to a letter written by Stahl on May 11 to tenants of the business strip.
In it, Stahl wrote that “Dunkin Donuts — without our advance knowledge — applied for, and the County Planning Commission has agreed to, a conditional use permit...”
The conditional use permit has been placed on the docket of the department’s next executive meeting scheduled June 6. If approved, the request will move to the next level of the process and eventually be heard by the County Council for approval or rejection.
Choate also said that “you have to own the property or have it under contract” to request a conditional use permit.
When asked about the statements in the letter, Stahl said, "It’s not an attempt to mislead. I don’t think I inferred it was approved (in the letter)."
There is also an issue of demolition. In the same notice, another claim was made that Breihan will not "tear down the north building and violate the tenant's lease."
However, something has to make way for the proposed new establishment, and it appears that it will be at least a portion of the north building where Jazzercise franchise is located due to other tenants.
“We will work with all viable displaced tenants,” Stahl told Patch. The number of displaced tenants will depend upon the size of the yet-to-be approved Dunkin' Donuts facility.
Attempts by Patch to contact other tenants of the shopping plaza to gather opinions about the proposed doughnut drive-through were unsuccessful.
But residents of Golden Valley Drive in the Birchwood Estates Subdivision, behind the proposed development, were forthcoming. Kim and Tim Juelfs aren’t concerned and welcome it.
“I’m all right with it,” Tim Juelfs said. “You’ve got a 7-Eleven that’s 24 hours, and you’ve got gas stations that are 24 hours. Anything to freshen up that plaza and to bring newness and class, I’m all right with it.”
Shirley Melton, who lives further down the street, initially said she really didn't really care, and then changed her mind.
“Put it in there,” she said of the proposed Dunkin' Donuts. “I like the coffee.”
But Norm Christensen, who lives right behind Jazzercise, doesn’t share Melton’s enthusiasm. He’s bothered about the shop being open 24 hours.
“I think it sucks,” said Christensen, a retired carpenter. “I don’t think it should be in a bedroom community. We have a 24-hour pool hall and that’s bad enough. I’m not going to be able to sleep.”
Dennis Banker, who lives a couple of blocks away on Saddle Back Drive, is concerned about increased traffic, lighting and noise that might be generated by Dunkin' Donuts.
“If I had my druthers, I want another business,” he said.
However, none of this changes prospects for Wolf, who until this past weekend “was not giving up.” Now she is making plans to pack up and move on. She just doesn’t know where yet.
“I am going to try to stay in the neighborhood in a location that can cater to my Oakville clients.”
Her franchise has 17 instructors, 53 classes and 400 students.
For the past year, since her lease expired, Wolf has been a monthly renter.