September 28, 2016

Educational zoning debate continues after heated public hearing

At a public hearing on proposed educational zoning, Webster University discovered the only thing holding up the Interdisciplinary Science Building (IDS) from moving forward, was the university itself.

Webster Groves Director of Planning and Development Mara Perry said the university had been sent a letter requesting documents needed to start the conditional use permit (CUP) process. She assured university administration the science building was something the city was waiting to send through the CUP process.

In the past, the university has cited the IDS as a main point of concern with the proposed educational zoning and CUP process.

City Attorney Helmutt Starr added that any university CUP processes started during the current educational zoning would be held to current zoning even if the proposed ordinance was passed.

After the more than four and a half hours the city council voted to continue the public hearing. Several verbal clashes between ordinance supporters and opposition of the city’s proposed changes to educational zoning led to the decision that more information would be needed to sculpt the Ordinance 8851 into a fair document.

Five groups presented over proposed educational zoning that could hamper Webster University’s growth and master plan process. During the meeting, several clarifications on the future of the science building and other university plans were made after Mayor Gerry Welch asked university President Elizabeth Stroble to help the council clarify friction points.

Councilmember Kathy Hart asked Stroble what the university’s plans on Eden Theological Seminary’s campus were. She said if Eden was open to letting the university use some of its vacant residential housing, she would be interested in a housing agreement.

“If we could use available housing, it would certainly let off some steam [housing students] while we finish projects on campus,” Stroble said.

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