Belleville

Belleville staff will recommend zoning board OK Lindenwood’s student housing request

The plan would allow 10 students in each of 36 buildings near campus.
The plan would allow 10 students in each of 36 buildings near campus. BND file image

The city’s planning department on Thursday will recommend the zoning board approve Lindenwood University-Belleville’s request for special use permits to allow students to live in 36 buildings near campus as long as the college caps the number of students in each building at 10, down from the current maximum of 16.

The staff also recommends that the city’s fire and building departments conduct annual inspections of each home or apartment owned by Lindenwood.

Several residents have asked the city to limit the number of students to three per home, which is the city’s usual limit for unrelated adults in one house.

Dale Wentz, who lives on South 27th Street, urges the city to require Lindenwood keep the maximum number of students at three. That’s the “big thing” residents want, he said.

Another resident, Debbie Verges of West A Street, said she thinks 10 is still too many for her.

The only actions we have seen have been to sweep (complaints) under the rug, in the hopes that they will go away.

Dale Wentz, who lives near Lindenwood

In recent weeks, residents near the school have raised issues of public safety, noise, traffic, litter and parking problems.

Mayor Mark Eckert said Wednesday he has met with Lindenwood officials and with residents to address the complaints.

“Lindenwood University has helped us save that central corridor and people’s property values, I believe in all my heart, are better today than they were 10 to 12 years ago before Lindenwood started making any initiative to improve that area,” Eckert said.

I understand that hopefully over time we’re going to be able to satisfy many of the issues that they are raising. We’re trying rapidly.

Mayor Mark Eckert

“Now I respect those individuals who have some personal situations that they have expressed to us,” he said. “I understand that hopefully over time we’re going to be able to satisfy many of the issues that they are raising. We’re trying rapidly.”

“You can never make everyone totally happy or satisfied but I do believe that we are in the process slowly of answering a lot of questions and that we are improving some communications through this process the last few weeks,” he said.

The city’s Zoning Board of Appeals will meet at 7 p.m. Thursday to hear Lindenwood’s request for special use permits for 36 buildings the college purchased near the West Main Street campus. Students already live in several of these homes. The meeting will be in the City Council chambers in City Hall.

The advisory board makes recommendations to the City Council, which will make the final decision and could receive the case on Oct. 5.

Eckert said he asks “everyone to come with open minds and be respectful.”

Brett Barger, the interim campus president, has said the school takes pride in being a good neighbor and will address the complaints.

Verges said an email to Eckert and all 16 aldermen asking them to “Please stand up for the citizens of Belleville and help Lindenwood’s administration to take responsibility. They owe it to their students and to the city that has welcomed this university.”

Wentz also sent the aldermen a letter stating, “We are asked to trust that Lindenwood will fix any issues or concerns that we have had. Yet we have seen no actions taken on their part to resolve the issues. The only actions we have seen have been to sweep them under the rug, in the hopes that they will go away.”

Annissa McCaskill, director of Economic Development, Planning & Zoning Department, said Lindenwood in St. Charles, Mo., has students in homes in areas zoned for single-family and three students live in these homes while the school has other properties zoned office industrial and more than three students are allowed to live in buildings there.

Here are the other recommendations from the city regarding Lindenwood student housing:

▪  The city’s administration would meet with Lindenwood’s administration at least quarterly each year.

▪  Lindenwood would host an annual public meeting for area residents to air their concerns.

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