The outcome of a plan to turn an empty church building on Kerth Road into a union hall remains in limbo.
A vote to offer a conditional-use permit to Laborers' Local 110 Holding Company was tabled by the St. Louis County Planning Commission on Monday after more than 80 residents united in opposition.
Residents are opposed to the union's plan for venue rentals and monthly meetings on Kerth Road, near Coyle Court and west of Interstate 55. The union wishes to turn the church building into administrative offices and a union hall.
“It’s a completely residential area and not the place for it,” Diane Van Velkinburgh said. “There will be drinking around where kids are playing.”
Chuck and Diane Van Velkinburgh live on Coyle Court, south of the 6.4-acre site, and attended the Monday meeting in Clayton.
Don Willey, the business manager for the Laborers’ Local 110, declined to comment.
No one spoke in favor of the permit during a public hearing on March 19, and three people spoke in opposition, saying the uses of a union hall were significantly different than a church. A symbolic vote out of 15 showed six people in favor of the petition and nine against.
“I thought we heard the residents loud and clear,” said Bill Sneed, who initially made a motion to deny the petition. “Is the basic issue land use, and if it is, we would never allow that kind of facility in a residential neighborhood.”
The Department of Planning recommended approval for the permit because they said it was a low-intensity, reasonable reuse of the church building. The department added conditions relating to lighting and operating hours to limit the impact on surrounding residents, the information report said.
On Monday, the planning commission questioned the appropriateness of a union hall with venue rentals in a residential area.
“I think we have to go back to the whole process of churches being located in residential areas," Sneed said. "If the church hadn’t been there and someone would come to us with something other than residential, I believe that the majority of this commission would not agree with having anything in that period other than residential.”
Keith Taylor, another commission member, supported the union hall. He said the building would fall into disrepair if left alone, and the hall would not disturb area residents with its operation hours.
“It’s going to be open during the week, normal work hours, closes at night, peace and quiet here,” said Taylor, who added that weekends would be mostly quiet with an occasional wedding or Saturday event.
“Let me address the issue that they’re closed at night and on the weekends—they’re not,” Sneed countered. ”We all know that most union halls are used for weddings and that type of thing, and that is late night activity there, and there will be. We have no way of limiting that and would not want to limit that.”
Taylor asked the other commission members if they would consider putting a hold on the request to allow the union time to reach out to residents and gain more approval.
Sneed withdrew his motion and the commission voted unanimously to table the petition until either the April 16 or May 7 meeting.