Sunset Hills, like most Missouri municipalities, is uncertain when, and how, it will next meet to conduct official business due to social-distancing concerns related to the coronavirus situation. When that occasion comes, floodplain management and medical marijuana will be first on deck.

On March 10, when the board of aldermen last met, it gave first reading to a bill to revise the city’s floodplain management program. The amendment failed to get a second reading, as Alderman Dee Baebler cast a no vote. One alderman’s vote is sufficient to block a bill from being voted on at the same meeting it is introduced.

The amendment would increase the required number of feet new structures must be built above base-flood elevation to two feet from one foot. It would allow the city to prohibit encroachment —including fill, new construction and substantial improvements — within the floodway and flood fringe unless a professional, hydrologic and hydraulic study can prove the encroachment will not increase flood levels.

The amendment would also shift the responsibility of hearing and deciding floodplain variances to the board of aldermen from the board of adjustment.

Alderman Casey Wong, who has been vocal in his insistence for flood-management reform, said the proposed ordinance “strikes a balance between a property owner’s right to develop, but without causing adverse impacts to surrounding property owners or downstream communities.”

Mayor Pat Fribis called the amendment one of the most restrictive in the state.

Wong noted the proposal would require “compensatory storage” for any material fill brought onto a development. 

“Bring a pile of fill in, remove an equal amount to preserve the flood storage capacity and not displace water and increase flooding,” he said.

Wong said the proposed requirement of a public hearing and board approval for fill permits and variances is “novel,” but “it would seem to make sense to encourage more input.”

Medical Marijuana

On the matter of medical marijuana, the board also is awaiting a second reading on a bill to allow individuals who consume cannabis products to be exempt from misdemeanor possession and use charges. 

The bill would require those who have been recommended cannabis by a physician to obtain a user identification card to present to law enforcement. City Attorney Robert Jones said such IDs would not be issued by the city, rather must be obtained from a medical doctor.

In December, the city adopted its first ordinance related to medical cannabis when it established the C-1 (commercial) and PD-LI (planned development light industrial) zones for medical cannabis business.

Next Meeting

As for when the board of aldermen will next meet, the answer is a moving target, determined by the fluidity of the state’s response to coronavirus concerns. Mayor Fribis said three weeks ago that city officials and staff are discussing the when, where and how of conducting public business. She said the possibility of a virtual meeting via electronic media has been discussed.

The board would have met April 28 rather than April 14 — its usual second Tuesday meeting — because of the municipal election, but the election has been postponed until June 2.