Plan Commission report on proposed amendments could affect Webster University expansion


A representative from Webster Groves Plan Commission will give an interim report regarding proposed zoning code amendments – that could affect Webster University’s future expansion. The interim report will be given at the Jan. 21 city council meeting.

At a public hearing in Dec., Webster University Chief Financial Officer Greg Gunderson voiced his concern that the proposal to change educational zoning in Webster Groves will limit the university’s future expansion.

During that same meeting, Webster University and Eden Theological Seminary representatives both requested that the amendments be tabled and discussed informally.

Webster University Attorney Traci Pupillo said during the hearing that she did not think the timing of the proposed changes to be coincidental. Webster University and Eden Theological Seminary filed suit against the City of Webster Groves on Wednesday, Sept. 18, 2013.

“It appears that perhaps one of the reasons is to make sure that Webster University can’t use the property that the Plan Commission recommend they be allowed to use,” Pupillo said at the December meeting. “It wants to implement a zoning change so that regardless of the outcome of the litigation that Webster University won’t be able to use the property.”

Webster Groves City Attorney Helmut Starr said during the December meeting that the planning and development staff began working on the zoning changes long before the university and Eden filed suit.

In the suit, the university and seminary allege the city unlawfully denied the university and Eden’s application for a conditional use permit (CUP) in August. The CUP would have allowed Webster University to use two buildings on Eden Theological Seminary’s campus and demolish another. Webster University purchased the property from Eden in 2010.

Gunderson had questions for the city plan commission at the public hearing regarding how much the city can modify an institution’s Campus Master Plan(CMP) before approving it, in the proposed zoning code.

The proposed zoning code includes regulations for parking, property dimensions and accessory uses. Webster Groves Director of Planning and Development Mara Perry said at the December hearing that the requirements for the proposed amendments for the CMP strongly resemble the requirements and regulations of current major educational campus zoning.

Gunderson said he found it difficult to address all of his concerns in the three-minute response time allotted per person during public hearings.

During the public hearing, Eden President David Greenhaw said he didn’t understand why the city wants to fix zoning codes that are not broken.

“It appears to me to be a series of solutions that I have yet to see how they can resolve the problems,” Greenhaw said at the meeting.

The meeting on Jan. 21 will start at 7:30 p.m. in the city council chambers.

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