December 2, 2020

Webster Groves City Council again postpones a decision on Eden’s master plan

With a  revised ordinance, the Webster Groves City Council will hold another public hearing on July 17

The Webster Groves City Council decided again to postpone Ordinance 8753 which addresses Eden Seminary’s 2012 master plan. Since the June 5 hearing, the ordinance was changed to include Ordinance 8754 which only addressed Eden’s plan to sell or lease to Webster University.

Read more on the June 5 public hearing.
The current ordinance states the city council approves Phase I and II of Eden’s master plan, but denies phase III. The ordinance has not passed yet and will be again discussed at the July 17 public hearing.
Phase III addresses Eden’s plan to continue to sell or lease 12 acres of “underutilized” space on Eden’s campus to 10 vendors, including 4.3 acres to Webster University. Laura Rein, Webster University secretary, Barb Ehnes, Webster University director of community and media relations, and Steve Strang, Webster University senior project manager, attended the hearing but did not speak.
The ordinance also stated that possible denial of phase III, Eden may “resubmit such a request at such time as a concrete proposal for the use of any portion of such property has been developed and a user has been identified…”
In his testimony to the city council and public, Dr. David Greenhaw, president of Eden Seminary, said and reiterated the vendors share Eden’s mission to be a religious, residential and educational institution and that the use of the vendors upholds these three ideas. He repeated numerous times in his testimony that the vendors, including the university, would help Eden remain a “lively” campus. Then, he said, there’s the question of Webster University.
“There’s this idea that Webster University should not cross Lockwood as if somehow Webster University is tainted,” Greenhaw said. “And that is wrong.”
Gary Feder, Eden’s attorney, said the real issue is the idea that something could be built on Eden’s campus by Webster University or anyone else.
“You are literally legislating Eden out of business and that’s what I think this ordinance will do,” Feder said.
Webster University’s attorney, Brad Goss of Smith Amundsen law firm, shared Feder’s sentiments. He said the city council has the right to regulate use of the space but any regulation of user of the space is beyond the city council’s jurisdiction.
“I hope this is dialogue that does not take place in a place of contention,” Goss said. “If this bill is passed then we will not be able to avoid that.”
The 7.5 acres of Eden’s green space which Webster Groves residents have shown support to maintain, was also a topic for discussion. Jackie Schim, a Webster Groves resident who lives on Sylvester Avenue, proposed that the city should have the green space appraised and purchase it. She said bonds and fundraising efforts could help the city pay for the green space and preserve it as a park.
Dave Buck, of 124 S. Elm, also wanted the city council to explore ways in which it could utilize the space. He said residents are atop of Webster Groves’ organizational chart–not non-for-profits, seminaries or universities.
“We’ve talked about Eden’s master plan for two and a half weeks but we’ve been talking about that property (the green space) for two and a half years and nothing is happening,” Buck said. “We’ve got three people from Webster (university) here (referencing to Ehnes, Rein and Strang) and Webster doesn’t even own the property. They’re quiet. They don’t talk about it. It has to come back to the residents.”
The next discussion of the ordinance was pushed to the July 17 hearing and not the July 3 hearing because it is on the eve of Independence Day. The July 17 hearing will be held in city hall.
For updates to this story, check back at websterjournal.com.

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