September 28, 2016

City removes lease cap

A proposed ordinance by the Webster Groves City Council will no longer require a cap on the amount of space institutions can lease out for accessory uses. Item J of the original draft of Ordinance 8854 stated institutions in all Webster Groves districts could not lease out more than 35 percent of a structure’s gross floor area or 35 percent of an institution’s property.

At a city council meeting on Jan. 20, Eden and Webster’s lawyers expressed disapproval of the regulation the council wanted to implement. During that public hearing, Gary Feder, Eden’s lawyer, said the regulation was both unnatural and illegal.

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AMIE BOGGEMAN/ The Journal Councilmember Greg Mueller (left) and City Attorney Helmut Starr clarify items listed in Ordinance 8854.

At the Feb. 2 public hearing, the council announced the clause would be stricken from the ordinance.

Patrick Giblin, director of public relations for Webster, said at this time the university does not see any immediate impacts the ordinance has on the institution. However, Giblin said there remains concern over how the ordinance could affect Webster in the long term.

“Exactly how is this (ordinance) going to be interpreted, especially as members of the city change?” Giblin said.

Webster lawyer Traci Pupillo added that the effects of an ordinance are only realized at the time when the statutes apply to an institution.

Giblin said Webster is still concerned that some of the language in the ordinance is not as clear as it could be.

Pupillo said although the university is pleased that Item J has been removed from the ordinance, the language in the ordinance is still not precise.

“These codes are written generally, and when it comes time to apply the code to specific circumstances, I always think of how they are going to be applied. That is just the reality of a zoning code,” Pupillo said. “At the end of the day, it is going to come down to how these provisions are implemented and enforced.”

Pupillo said it is typical to encounter two issues when looking at ordinances: how they are written and how they are enforced.

City Manager Mara Perry said since the prior public hearing, Webster, Eden and the city have collaborated  to find a solution to the problems the institutions had with the lease cap.

“We have had multiple meetings with both Webster University and Eden, both phone calls and emails back and forth with feedback on any proposed changes,” Perry said.

The city council also removed language that mandated institutions draft master plans and site plans when leasing out any property or structures.

After the first and second reading of the ordinance, with Item J stricken, the city council unanimously voted to close the public hearing.

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