Nearly a month after closing the public hearings on educational zoning ordinances 8851 and 8852, the Webster Groves city council voted to pass both ordinances during the Jan. 6 council meeting.
Webster University President Elizabeth Stroble released a letter, addressed the Webster Groves Mayor Gerry Welch and city council members. In the letter, Stroble wrote that Webster is “understandably disappointed with the outcome” of the vote.
Before the voting began, Councilmember Ken Burns made his voting intention known to the council.
“I just wanted to state that, although I believe I am in a small minority of councilmembers, that I will be voting not to approve (8851),” Burns said.
Burns said he felt the ordinance was singling out institutions. But Councilmember Kathy Hart said the zoning was not singling out any institution but rather the zoning reflected the uses of the property in the neighborhood.
Under the ordinance 8851, Webster University and Eden Theological Seminary are placed into two separate districts; Eden being EC-1 and Webster being EC-2. Nerinx High School is also categorized in the EC-2 district.
Councilmember Greg Mueller said the need for separate districts for Webster and Eden were needed because of their student densities and their location.
“You have a high density (Webster and Nerinx High School) bordering commercial districts and those should be zoned differently than institutions (Eden) with drastically lower density in single family homes,” Mueller said.
After 8851 passed, Webster Groves Mayor Gerry Welch read a statement aloud to those who had attended the council meeting. Welch’s statement explained how the council had listened to hours of public comments and received thousands of documents concerning the zoning. She said the current 8851 ordinance is drastically different than the original draft as the council worked to balance the values of the institutions and Webster Groves residents.