One of the flash points during a three-hour zoning board hearing on Lindenwood University-Belleville’s student housing plan came when aldermen gave the board their views before the panel recommended the City Council accept Lindenwood’s request for special-use permits for more than 50 homes and apartment buildings.
At 7 p.m. Monday at City Hall, the 16 aldermen will officially have their say when the City Council is scheduled to vote on Lindenwood’s application.
Alderwoman Janet Schmidt and Alderman Mike Buettner both represent Ward 2, where Lindenwood has bought dozens of homes and filled them with students. Schmidt urged the Zoning Board of Appeals to support the application while Buettner asked the board members to deny or table it.
Buettner, who lives next to students on West A Street, raised numerous concerns including security, overcrowding, trash removal, traffic, parking, quality of life and whether the homes meet state fire codes.
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Schmidt said Lindenwood has had an “amazingly positive” affect on the area since it bought the former Belleville West High School a dozen years ago.
“What they’re doing to the housing stock is adding value to the neighborhood,” Schmidt said.
Ward 4 Alderman Raffi Ovian and Ward 8 Alderman Roger Wigginton also said the city needs Lindenwood.
“We don’t need to force them out, we need to grab them and say, ‘Thank you,’” Ovian said. “What I want you to do is come to my ward. Let me show you what nastiness looks like. If you want to see something clean, look at Lindenwood and see what they’ve done.”
He said he has had trouble dealing with derelict properties in his ward and used an expletive to describe them. Meanwhile, he said Lindenwood is cooperating with the city.
Ward 6 Alderman Bob White said in an interview that he has problems with the housing plan, including issues about traffic and gravel parking areas. He said in “good conscience” he cannot vote for the plan.
Four alderman have either indicated support for Lindenwood or said they will vote for the request; two said they will vote against it; five said they are either undecided or didn’t want to reveal how they will vote before Monday night; and five could not be reached for comment.
In the past four City Council meetings, residents who live near the West Main Street campus have complained to aldermen about traffic, parking, noise and litter problems. Seventeen people spoke before the zoning board and urged them to deny Lindenwood’s request.
Last week, the school released a report saying nearly 1,000 students and metro-east residents support Lindenwood’s housing plan. The report also says the crime reports have dropped in the area since college students started moving into the neighborhood. Twenty-three people spoke in favor of Lindenwood’s request.
The four aldermen supporting Lindenwood’s request are Janet Schmidt, Paul Seibert, Raffi Ovian and Roger Wigginton.
The two opposing the plan are Mike Buettner and Bob White.
The five who said they are either undecided or didn’t want to reveal how they will vote before Monday night are Joe Hazel, Kent Randle, Scott Tyler, Trent Galetti and Phil Elmore.
Five aldermen who could not be reached for comment inclue Ken Kinsella, Johnnie Anthony, Phillip Silsby, Ed Dintelman and James Musgrove.
The zoning board voted 6-0 to support Lindenwood’s request on Wednesday with the following seven conditions:
▪ Cap the number of students per home at 10, which is down from the current maximum of 16 allowed by an ordinance passed in 2012.
▪ Require annual inspections by the city’s fire and building departments.
▪ Have quarterly meetings with Lindenwood and city of Belleville staffs to review property inventory, occupancy permit compliance and public health and safety issues.
▪ Have annual end-of-school town hall meetings with Lindenwood officials, city staff and area residents to identify concerns “well before” the fall semester begins.
▪ Lindenwood should submit an acceptable parking plan to the board within 90 days.
▪ Lindenwood should find a way to safely light properties but not have the light intrude on neighbors.
▪ All front yards should remain as green space.
Want to go?
- When: 7 p.m. Monday
- Where: City Hall, 101 S. Illinois St.