June 19, 2019

Webster Groves City Council approves 1st and 2nd Reading of Ordinance 8753 despite objections from Webster University, Eden

Ordinance 8753, which outlines the master plan and possible sale or lease of property at Eden Theological Seminary, completed successful 1st and 2nd readings at the regular meeting of the Webster Groves City Council on Tuesday, Aug. 21. Ordinances must be read three times at public meetings before they are brought to a vote before the council.

Brennan Soval, an attorney at Husch Blackwell LLP representing Eden, called the ordinance “overreaching” and criticized the bill for placing “unprecedented requirements” on Eden.

Maggie Sowash, Webster Groves resident, speaks at a Webster Groves City Council public hearing on Tuesday, Aug. 21. PHOTO BY BRITTANY RUESS

The Eden Master Plan, submitted in accordance with city regulations, details plans for Eden to lease a portion of its property to 10 vender — including Webster University. The university would utilize the majority of that space in an effort to expand campus size for the university and increase revenue for the seminary.

The intended expansion of Webster University into Eden and across Lockwood Avenue raised concerns for a number of residents, many residing in the Old Webster neighborhood in close proximity to Eden.

Soval requested on behalf of Eden that Ordinance 8753 not be read at the meeting, citing “substantial concerns” with the final version of the bill, which was not completed until the morning of the meeting. Current alterations to Ordinance 8753 can be seen on the PDF version, which The Journal made available on its website.

Read the original version of Ordinance 8753 from the June 5 public hearing, which did not include Webster University. The university was in a separate ordinance, then, in Ordinance 8754.

“The ordinance as it has been revised causes concerns for our clients at Eden,” Soval said. “The revisions were just completed this morning, and we feel there should be more time for us to examine it and make our case before council acts on this.”

The ordinance places restrictions on Eden with regards to future sale or leasing of its property. These restrictions were added as amendments to the ordinance, and stipulate any lessee at Eden would be restricted to less than 25,000 square feet of the approximately 250,000 square feet available. Any lessee or tenant would be prohibited from employing more than 15 individuals on the property.

Soval indicated that Eden might be inclined to withdraw it master plan entirely, which would further delay city council action on Eden’s request.

At a special City Council meeting last Tuesday, Aug. 14, City Council recommended meetings between representatives from Eden, Webster University and City Council. The first of those meetings will be next Tuesday, Aug. 28 to discuss future collaboration. Helmut Starr, city attorney, said Ordinance 8753 would not be discussed at the meeting because it would be, “inappropriate” because the ordinance is a public matter.

 

 

Listen for Webster Groves resident Peggy Smith’s reaction to Ordinance 8753 at the Aug. 21 Webster Groves City Council meeting.

 

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