November 24, 2020

Time for the Special Joint Committee to Act

To the Leaders of the Three Entities that make up the Special Joint Committee (Webster University, Eden Seminary, and Webster Groves City Council):

You have met 6 times over the last 6 months, with no big actions taken or collaborative solutions agreed to. You have indicated that the three entities will next meet in March sometime.

In my humble and imperfect opinion, this entire, prolonged affair has lasted much, much longer than it ever needed to. After over 3 years, all of the plans, facts, evidence and opinions have been made public, voiced and written multiple times by all parties. It’s time for the Special Joint Committee to get moving and to act by reaching collaborative resolution on the “BIG PICTURE” issues you were organized and formed to address in the first place.

Resident taxpayers – and not non-profits – are at the top of the Webster Groves organization chart for a good reason. I obviously do not speak for all 23,000 Webster Groves residents, but I do speak for many of them in sharing this wish for your agreement to 3 resolutions:

1. Resolve that Webster University will not expand its final master plan north of Lockwood into the 5.25 acres of Eden property that includes the Luhr Library building. This has been THE seminal, singular, and main issue that so many residents have risen up and fought back against. They believe that if Webster U expands across Lockwood, the entire community will change for the worse forever due to an array of undesired and significant negative consequences. You may not agree, but these residents have stayed true to their convictions and are not giving up and they deserve and demand your attention.

Additionally, many residents and I believe that, based on the facts in their final master plan, Webster U does not need to expand into the Eden acreage and can achieve all of its final master plan goals south of Lockwood within its core, 47 acre campus which, on page 36 of its final master plan, states that it is calculated that there are 15 acres available for development on their core campus. If the university can move an entire new science building from its original site in the Luhr Library to the new East Quad in the core campus, it judgmentally can also move the IT Center and Alumni Affairs.

Finally, Webster U does not own this property. Eden Seminary does. Plus, it is my understanding from informed sources that Webster U has already paid $1 million to Eden Seminary of the original $5.3 million price tag, and Eden has already spent this money. This initial payment should not be viewed as a down payment that entitles Webster U to the Eden property. To the contrary, it was an unfortunate and premature transaction made under poor assumptions that the purchase of this property would be a cakewalk with residents and City Hall. Think again.

2. Resolve that the Eden green space will remain the green space just as it is currently defined, used and enjoyed today by so many in our community. Personally, I think the best solution would be to grant Eden Seminary approval to proceed with its consolidated, contracted master plan in return for the preservation of the green space.

3. Resolve to initiate a request for new development ideas for the 5.25 acres of Eden property that meet these three criteria: 1) helps generate money to fund Eden’s capital fund and endowment; 2) fulfills a major need for the community; and 3) is a for-profit venture that adds to the City’s tax base.

In summary, words are cheap; the only thing that matters is action. There have been more than enough words said and written over the last 3 years. The time is now for the Special Joint Committee to act. If consensus can be reached on the above resolutions, I believe it will be a win-win-win for all three entities and we all can finally move forward together.

Thanks for your consideration.

Dave Buck

Webster Groves resident

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