After a 9-0 vote, the Webster Groves city council continued the trend of previous public hearings and extended the public discussion of the educational zoning ordinance 8851 to the next city council meeting on Dec. 2.
The Nov. 18 public hearing yielded a question-and-answer, where the council members would ask questions of the educational institutions for the public record. Webster Groves Mayor Gerry Welch said the format for the public hearing was necessary to form the process necessary for creating a good ordinance that balances the interests of the educational institutions and the community.
Welch asked Traci Pupillo, the lawyer for Webster, what the university wanted the ordinance to achieve. Pupillo mentioned the flexibility to work with Eden and lease property from the seminary. That is when Councilmember Anne Tolan intervened.
“You say you want the flexibility to lease classroom and dorm space, and we have done that. That is in the ordinance,” Tolan said. “You have flexibility to lease administrative offices, classroom space and dorms on the Eden campus.”
Pupillo said she has never seen a draft of ordinance 8851 that allows said flexibility.
“I know you guys are saying you’re going to allow the leasing of space but that wasn’t in the last draft and so we got this new draft and its not in this draft either,” Pullio said.
But Welch disagreed, saying the abilities of Webster to lease classroom space, administrative offices and dorms from Eden were stated in the ordinance.
While Webster may not have seen clarity in the ordinance’s language of their flexibility, Eden Theological Seminary did not see the clarity of the council’s true intentions for the small college.
Eden President David Greenhaw felt the council was not trying to consider the interests of Eden or Webster University. Instead, Greenhaw said it felt to him that the city council wants to accommodate Eden, but at the same time, wants to use Eden’s as a buffer to prevent Webster from crossing Lockwood Avenue.
In the ordinance’s proposal, Webster and Eden would be zoned in different ways, which both Webster and Eden fear would prevent them from collaborating with one another. In prior public hearings, Webster said they would be open to using the forms on Eden’s campus.
“If that is what you’re doing, I think that is fundamentally unfair to us,” Greenhaw said. “If you’re just using us as a buffer, you are hurting us in ways that is fundamentally wrong.”