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 CITY OF WEBSTER GROVES

April 6, 2010

 

The City Council met this date in a regular session in the Council Chambers at City Hall at #4 E. Lockwood at 7:36 p.m.

 

Present at Roll Call:                  Mayor Gerry Welch

                                                Councilmember Kathy Hart

Councilmember Joan Esserman

Councilmember Debi Salberg

Councilmember Greg Mueller

Councilmember Toni Hunt  

   

Absent at Roll Call:                   Councilmember Anne Tolan

 

A quorum was present.            

 

Also present:                            Mr. Steve Wylie, City Manager

Mr. Helmut Starr, City Attorney

Ms. Katie Nakazono, City Clerk

 

 

REMARKS OF VISITORS

No Remarks of Visitors.

 

UNFINISHED BUSINESS

BILL # 8663 – THIRD READING

On motion of Councilmember Hunt, seconded by Councilmember Hart, BILL #8663 ENTITLED: AN ORDINANCE TO RETAIN INDEFINITELY THE TRAFFIC SIGNAL AT THE INTERSECTION OF ELM AND SWON AVENUES AND AMENDING SECTION 60.955, SCHEDULE D OF THE CODE OF WEBSTER GROVES, having been introduced and read twice on March 16, 2010, was taken up its title read a third time and placed upon its passage to become Ordinance #8663.

 

Scott Andrews, 211 S. Elm Avenue, stated that he was just nearly run down by someone trying to beat the yellow on Swon.  He read a prepared statement in opposition to keeping the lights at Elm and Swon.  He stated that none of them want to live and work on a thoroughfare, and that in spite of signage not allowing through trucks, eighteen wheelers regularly pass through. He stated that he was holding twenty-seven pages of speaker comments delivered since November, and in all of them, there is not one in support of keeping the lights. You are entitled to look at safety concerns, but we already know that the Police Department’s accident study is spurious because it compares a cherry-picked two year period.  One cannot possibly claim that people are more safety conscious through a light than a four-way stop.  The Easter day accident at the intersection was merely the latest example of the aggressive driving habits of people cruising through the traffic lights.

 

Peter Kessler, 400 Marion Avenue, asked that Council consider keeping their word and remove the light.

 

Heyden Hucke, 304 S. Elm Avenue, stated that she is a physician, and shortly after they moved in, her daughter was hit by a car, and went ten feet up in the air and landed in front of another car.  The driver who hit her was going 25 and was beginning to slow down for the four-way stop.  The oncoming driver was gradually getting faster from coming through the stop.  If either car had been going ten to fifteen miles an hour faster, my daughter could have been killed.  It is tragic to have to deal with a mangled, paralyzed or possibly dead human, much less a child, who was hit by a car.  It would be terrible to lose another one of Webster Groves beloved children because of an accident.  Who among us hasn’t tried to beat a red light?  If a little kid runs in front of the car, it could be tragic.  I want every one of you to think about how you are going to feel for the rest of your life, not if, but when, one of our children in this community gets hit because some bozo is trying to beat the red light.  I would not want that weighing on my conscience.  Now is your chance.

 

Jessica Campbell, 304 S. Elm Avenue, stated that she grew up on Elm and spent a lot of time running back and forth to her friends’ houses.  She stated that she never felt unsafe except for that one time that I got hit.  I didn’t even break any bones.  I went away to college and came back and found that Elm had turned into a minor highway.  I hear traffic sounds starting at 5:30 in the morning.  People do gun it to get through the light.  I don’t like waking up to the sound of the traffic, my baby doesn’t like it.  I also don’t like smelling the exhaust that starts at 3:30.  I just think it ought to come down, you said it would come down, and it should come down. 

 

Kathy Dessent, 226 S. Elm Avenue, stated that she can’t think of any place else in Webster Groves that has a stoplight in the middle of a residential district.  That denotes business to me.  I know there is a stoplight at Elm and Glendale Road, but that is not a heavy residential district.  There is one at West Jackson and Laclede, but that is to get across a four-lane highway.  I think that it is wrong to put a stoplight in the middle of a residential district.  I don’t think the traffic counts really give a true picture.  You could come sit on my front porch with a traffic gun and see better.  I hope you will search in your hearts and think about the people who live in this corridor.  You are supposed to make it nice for us. 

 

Liz Zimmerman, 4 Oak Terrace, stated that there has been a lot said about why the light should come down.  Most of us in this room never wanted the light in the beginning.    It was temporary.  I think everyone in here feels like we are about to be thrown under the bus.  The other group are those who want the light to remain.  I have to say, I am not aware of anybody asking to put a light up at Swon.  All of the sudden though, I guess they find it more convenient.  I don’t see how that is fair.  We were told it was going to come down and here we are arguing about it. 

 

Angie Reed, 206 S. Elm Avenue, stated that it is time to remove the lights.  It’s been four extra months of heartache and sleepless nights.  They are not warranted.  There is no reason to keep these lights.  The only time they get used is rush hour.  The other time they cause problems.  I don’t want to see anyone get killed in front of my house.  I believe there are more reasons to remove them than to keep them.  I don’t know who is pressuring you to want to keep these lights.  But it is not right.  We need to do the right thing, and the right thing is to remove these lights like you promised.  If you can’t keep your promise, what are you teaching children?  That it doesn’t matter?  You need to keep your promise.  If you weren’t on the board two years ago, you still have the duty to maintain what was said back then. 

 

Don Reed, 206 S. Elm Avenue, I think we all know that light should have come down in December, except for one little out clause that goes something like this “Unless Webster Groves votes to keep them.”  Just who is Webster Groves?  The City Council, the Traffic Advisory Commission, the Staff, the Director of Public Works?  Or is Webster Groves the residents and citizens of Webster Groves.  You are here to represent us.  Shouldn’t the Webster Groves residents have the say in this matter.  I think we have made it perfectly clear what we want.  We have a petition with 200 signatures.  We presented real safety data that proved that four-way stops are safer for pedestrians and overall traffic accidents.  We submitted dozens of newspaper articles, dozens of emails, dozens of people have gotten in front of you and spoke about this.  Where is the opposition?  We have shot down every single rationale for a traffic light at this intersection.  I think it has been very convincing.  It is time for you to listen and to represent the people.  Please listen to the voice and remove the lights at Swon and Elm. 

 

Randy Jotte, 120 Orchard, stated that he was a member of the Council when MoDOT and the County insisted on the signals.  He stated that he understands and respects the challenges of the decision before them.  He asked the Council to replace the lights with signs.  The cornerstone of our government’s foundation is to pursue the common good while preserving the basic rights of the minority.  The traffic lights served their purpose during highway reconstruction.  With traffic now back to what it was, the broader benefit is less.  What remains is the infringement on the rights of the homeowners to have the neighborhood as it was.  My second reason is that I know some of the homeowners, but consider all members of our community family.  We won’t agree on every issue all the time, but sometimes issues arise where longtime discord results if the matter is not successfully resolved.  I ask that you individually and collectively vote no on Bill #8663 and return stop signs to the intersection. 

 

Alec Hill, 247 S. Forest, spoke in favor of the lights.  He stated that he believes the light is an improvement and should be kept.  The increased traffic isn’t just going to go away because the light does.  So what do you do to keep it safest and reduce the noise?  The safety issue is to keep the light, because it is clear who is going to stop and who is going to go.  Noise is reduced due to stopping and going, and there are no bumper cars at Elm and Swon. 

 

Lloyd Nystrom, 34 E. Swon Avenue, stated that if the rationale for the lights is to speed the flow of traffic down Elm, how does this benefit the homeowners, taxpayers, residents or businesses of Webster Groves?  Speeding the traffic down Elm doesn’t benefit any of those categories of people.  If safety is the issue, you would have to put lights on every corner, and anyplace that Elm crosses.  I don’t see any reason to have lights in the middle of a residential area of Webster Groves.

 

Edythe Weeks, 104 S. Elm Avenue, said that at first she couldn’t figure out why people were so worked up about the stoplight.  Every morning Elm is like a highway.  Speed demons hate stop signs, Elm is in the center of main highways, and people are starting to see South Elm as a fast, easy shortcut to get where they need to get. 

 

Mary Barenkamp, 161 S. Elm Avenue, stated that she moved onto Elm Avenue 50 years ago, and when Highway 44 was built, it brought more traffic to the area, because it was another highway.  Somewhere in that timeframe there was an effort to widen Elm to four lanes, with many homes losing most of their front yards.  This, thankfully was defeated.  Lots of conversation centered on the extension of I-170, and that homes and businesses  would be demolished.  Little did we dream that Elm Avenue would become the Innerbelt.  Elm again, with the shutdown of Highway 40, the powers that be decided that all north and south traffic should be directed to use Elm.  Rush hour traffic backs up at Swon even with the light still green, due to Lockwood and Big Bend having their stops.  People block traffic at the light. That pattern has been established.  25 miles per hour is a farce.  Imagine backing from a driveway into that residential highway.  Forget trying to go north across two traffic lanes.  Getting into your home base again is a challenge.  Where can you or a visitor park?  Not on Elm.  What’s next for Elm?  Hopefully a four-way stop sign again so that drivers realize that we are a community and they must slow down and share a residential street.

 

Patty Moore, 401 Elm Avenue, Glendale, stated that she grew up on Elm, and has lost a lot of sleep on this topic.  Webster has been my home and is near and dear to me and my parents who still live here.  We should be on the same side on this issue.  We should be banding together and you should be our leaders protecting our community and supporting our friends and family on Elm and Swon.  These homes were built to raise families and families aren’t going to buy on Elm anymore.  I’d like you to look at 157 South Elm, it is vacant, it is run down, it is a disgrace to Webster.  We will have more homeowners that don’t care just like that one.  We vote for you to represent us.  I would ask you to vote to give us back our neighborhood and not in support of crabby commuters.  I ask you to keep a promise, because I think promises still matter in 2010.  Check out Laclede Station Road, because I think that is the fate of Elm if you don’t vote to take out the light.  I really feel bad for the people on Laclede, because they have given up a lot. 

 

Rick Oleshak, 139 S. Avenue, stated that people are very passionate about the neighborhood and City.  Looking into the future, we think it is very important.  Two years ago you said the stoplight would come down.  We moved in five years ago on April

Fool’s Day, and we just hope the joke’s not on us.  If you don’t do it for me, or my wife or our neighborhood, do it for the future of Webster Groves growing up. 

 

Police Chief Dale Curtis, stated that his job is to be as dispassionate and objective as possible.  The figures that we have, and the data that we collected that went to the Traffic Advisory Commission are exactly as we believe they are.  They are not fabricated figures.  The two main parts are that prior to the signal going in, in 1998, the volume of traffic was about 11,000 vehicles per day.  We wanted to do a study after the closure of Highway 40 to determine if the volume levels would remain the same with the traffic light or if they would go down.  Again, the numbers are not fabricated.  The data is that it is about 11,000 cars per day, the same as it was in 1998.  We can’t in good conscience recommend that there not be traffic control there. There needs to be either a stop sign or a traffic signal.  In my 35 years of experience, and the experience of the traffic unit, the signal is the safer option.  A stop sign is not warranted. Even though the signal does not quite meet the warrants, it comes much closer than a sign.  The signals are high profile, people are much more likely to stop for a signal than a sign, especially ones that are unwarranted.  Unwarranted stop signs tend to be ignored if there is no cross traffic.  Children have a low profile, it is easy to miss a child crossing at a stop sign, because they are expecting the car to stop.  I can’t guarantee that there won’t be any accidents at that location whether it is a signal or a sign.  Based on our experience and the data, we believe the signal is the safest option.  I can’t in good conscience recommend that there not be anything there, but that is really what both studies warrant. 

 

Councilmember Hart stated that she was here when this started several years ago, as were Gerry, Steve and Joan.  When this first started in January of 2007, the County came to us with some proposals to help us accommodate what they thought was going to be an increase in traffic.  What they wanted to do was install the signal, allow through truck traffic and widen the intersection at Swon to add a turn lane.  As a Council and City, I think everyone was taken aback at those proposals.  We worked our best to work with the County to stop some of that.  We got the County to agree not to direct through truck traffic down Elm, not to widen the intersection, not to take control of Elm, and not to designate or advertise Elm as an alternate route.  The light was a compromise. I think we did a lot at that time to protect the neighborhood.  The original ordinance as it was written said that the light would stay up.

 

Mr. Wylie added that the original language was that it would stay up unless it was voted to be taken down.  Before the third reading it was changed to say that it would come down unless voted to stay up.  This was in response to the public, so we would have to have this discussion. 

 

Councilmember Hart stated that this was to force us to study the issue and look at it again, which is, I think, what we have done.  I don’t think anyone on Council or in the City made a promise that it would absolutely come down.  We made a promise that we

would review it again.  Which is what the newspaper articles I have reviewed from the past two years, the minutes and the ordinance said.  That is what we are trying to do. 

 

Councilmember Mueller stated that the process we have gone through has been important.  Our duty is to make an informed decision.  We had data from before the construction, and during the construction, but we had no data after the construction.  It was important that we gather that data in order to make an informed decision.  Our duty as a Council is to make an informed decision on the best practices and safety for the streets of our City.  This process has not been a delay, but a necessary step in order to make an informed decision.  On my own part, my primary concern was safety.  I have read the data in the studies, and listened intently to every comment at the speakers stand and read every email that has been sent to me.  No comment or email has been ignored or unread.  My primary concern has been safety which is not determined by majority vote, or the loudest voice, or applause.  It is determined by expert opinion and factual data.  That was the persuasive argument that may have not been spoken from that podium at all of our meetings, but the hard facts, and the data and the expert opinions have been persuasive.  Those are the things that affect my judgment and my vote.

 

Councilmember Esserman stated that she thinks there has been an assumption stated that the light only benefits folks outside of Webster.  I think that is suspending the law of physics a little bit.  It is in the heart of Webster and is used by many of our residents, rather than only people from the outside coming through.

 

Councilmember Salberg stated that this impacts the entire community.  There are issues of people avoiding bottlenecks and going on streets that aren’t designed for this.  Everyone has had some unpleasant experience with traffic in front of their house.  I had my side mirror clipped.  Toni had a family member’s car totaled in front of her house.  Stop lights don’t make or break a safety issue. I have also seen a number of people in Webster do what the Police Chief said and blatantly disregard stop signs.  Stop signs don’t necessarily stop people.  I think Greg’s point that safety is our consideration is well taken, because that is my consideration as well. 

 

Councilmember Hunt stated that this is difficult, and she agrees that they have heard the residents, but have also heard from people who have chosen not to come here.  You can say they are chicken or not, but they are residents of Webster Groves and they did express opinions.  We also have an opinion from our Police Chief.  What it boils down to for me is that we tried to take into account the opinions of everyone and make a decision that is best for all the citizens of Webster. 

 

Mayor Welch stated that this has been a difficult decision.  We have taken this seriously.  We have listened to you and have had professional opinions and many many emails. This is particularly difficult because you are our friends and our neighbors.  We represent an entire community and sometimes it is hard to make decisions when you are looking at your friends and neighbors.  We had some suggestions that your street is a critical part of the historic district, and maybe the way to slow the traffic down on Elm is not the four way stop, but is some sort of designation as you enter Elm to let people know they are entering a historic residential neighborhood.  It has come up in our discussions and other discussions. 

 

Mayor Welch called for the vote on Bill #8663. 

MEMBERS VOTING:

AYES: HART, ESSERMAN, SALBERG, MUELLER, HUNT, WELCH

NOES: NONE

ABSENT: TOLAN

Mayor Welch stated that Bill #8663 was approved. 

 

BILL # 8664 – THIRD READING

On motion of Councilmember Salberg, seconded by Councilmember Hart, BILL #8664 ENTITLED: AN ORDINANCE PROVIDING FOR THE SUBMISSION TO THE QUALIFIED ELECTORS OF THE CITY OF WEBSTER GROVES, ST. LOUIS COUNTY, MISSOURI, AT THE PRIMARY ELECTION TO BE HELD ON TUESDAY, THE 3RD DAY OF AUGUST, 2010, OF A PROPOSITION FOR THE ISSUANCE OF GENERAL OBLIGATION BONDS OF THE CITY; SETTING OUT THE FORM OF BALLOT TO BE USED IN VOTING UPON THE PROPOSITION AND THE FORM OF NOTICE OF THE ELECTION; AND DIRECTING THE PUBLICATION OF THE NOTICE,  having been introduced and read twice on March 16, 2010, was taken up its title read a third time and placed upon its passage to become Ordinance #8664.

Mayor Welch called for the vote on Bill #8664. 

MEMBERS VOTING:

AYES: ESSERMAN, SALBERG, MUELLER, HUNT, WELCH, HART

NOES: NONE

ABSENT: TOLAN

Mayor Welch stated that Bill #8664 was approved.

 

NEW BUSINESS – MAYOR, COUNCILMEMBERS, CITY ATTORNEY, CITY MANAGER

Mayor Welch stated that the City has once again received the Certificate for Achievement for Excellence in Financial Reporting.  This makes five years in a row. 

 

NEW BUSINESS

BILL #8665 – FIRST AND SECOND READING

Councilmember Esserman introduced BILL #8665 ENTITLED: AN ORDINANCE OF THE CITY OF WEBSTER GROVES, MISSOURI, ADOPTING AND ENACTING NEW STORM WATER REGULATIONS DESIGNED TO CONTROL THE RELEASE OF WATER DURING CERTAIN STORM EVENTS AS NEW CHAPTER 54 OF THE CODE OF WEBSTER GROVES AND ENACTING A RELATED AND AMENDED APPENDIX R TO THE CITY’S BUILDING CODE, CHAPTER 20, REGARDING REGULATION OF GRAVEL DRIVEWAYS

WITHIN THE CITY AND MATTERS RELATED THERETO, and at the Councilmember’s request, the Bill was read twice, first and second times by title only, and placed on the agenda for future consideration of the Council.

 

Councilmember Salberg asked about pervious pavement, and Mr. Grow responded. 

 

Councilmember Esserman asked about gravel driveways.  Mr. Grow stated that when it is done correctly it has enough depth that it remains a pervious surface, and that is why we are suggesting that they be allowed.  Under the current regulations, existing ones are allowed to stay but can’t be expanded.  

 

CONSENT AGENDA

A motion was made by Councilmember Hart, seconded by Councilmember Salberg, to approve the Consent Agenda.

Mayor Welch called for the vote on the Consent Agenda.

MEMBERS VOTING:

AYES: SALBERG, MUELLER, HUNT, WELCH , HART, ESSERMAN

NOES: NONE

ABSENT: TOLAN

Mayor Welch stated the Consent Agenda was approved.

 

The following Consent Agenda was approved:

·        Approval of Minutes        – March 16, 2010

 - March 31, 2010 (Special Meeting)

·        Liquor License – Application for Arts/Education Liquor License for Opera Theatre of St. Louis, 8282 Big Bend Blvd., to Sell Liquor by the Drink for their 2010 Season

·        Resolution #2010-11 – Authorizing the City Manager to Purchase a Dump Body Snowplow, and Salt Spreader with Ground Speed Control and an Electric Tarp

·        Resolution #2010-12 – Authorizing the City Manager to Make Application for a 2010 MoDOT Grant Related to Missouri’s Safe Routes to School Program

 

APPOINTMENTS TO BOARDS AND COMMISSIONS

No appointments to Boards and Commissions.

 

EXECUTIVE (CLOSED) SESSION

No Executive (Closed) Session.

 

ADJOURNMENT

There being no further business to come before the City Council, the meeting was adjourned at 8:32 P.M. on motion of the Mayor, duly seconded.

 

 

PASSED AND APPROVED this 20th day of April,  2010.


#4 EAST LOCKWOOD
WEBSTER GROVES, MO 63119
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