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Union Hall Permit Halted After Residential Outcry

More than 80 residents signed a petition against the proposed hall on Kerth Road.

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.

Liz April 05, 2012 at 01:26 AM
I wish someone could help me understand south county's resistance to improving/developing vacant properties!
Maggie Madonia April 05, 2012 at 08:11 PM
Agreed, Liz. ...and this property sits back off Kerth Road quite a bit. I wonder if it is the same residences that allow their neighbor to fly a Confederate flag seen from I-55! Keep it classy, folks!
Diane Van Velkinburgh April 05, 2012 at 09:26 PM
Don't know where you live but a liquor license, weekend hall rentals, parking problems for over 3300 members with only 280 spots, along with being commercial property does not belong in a residential area. I understand why people are upset. Plus there is a tenant in there now keeping the property up, it is not vacant property. If you think this is such a good idea then you live next to it, or maybe have your kids riding bikes and get hit by a drunk driver or accident happen at the entrance of this place. Kerth road is too small of a road to handle the traffic volume for something like this.
Maurice Miller April 06, 2012 at 04:27 AM
What?? Drinking around where kids are playing?? Haven't been to too many church barbeques, have we?

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