After six months of hearings before the city, the fate of the Douglass Hill redevelopment proposal will be determined on Tuesday, Dec. 7.

The Webster Groves City Council this week agreed to a Dec. 7 vote on both developer SG Collaborative’s rezoning request and its application for tax subsidies. The Webster Groves Tax Increment Financing Commission, convened in July, has yet to make its recommendation to the council, but is expected to reach a decision on the TIF at its meeting on Tuesday, Nov. 23.

“We will have a very important meeting on Dec. 7,” Webster Groves Mayor Gerry Welch said at the Nov. 16 city council meeting.

Rezoning of the 15-acre property to a planned commercial district is needed to accommodate an ambitious $320 million, mixed-use proposal that calls for eight buildings to house office, retail, restaurants and more than 700 apartments. Sixteen town homes are also planned. SG Collaborative maintains that the project, located just north of Old Webster, cannot be done without tax incentives and would not be economically feasible if it were scaled down.

Douglass Hill has met with a barrage of criticism since the rezoning request first went to the city’s plan commission back in June. Citizen comments over a series of public hearings have questioned the development’s density, building heights, environmental impact, construction in a partial flood plain, the possible use of eminent domain, its impact on surrounding neighborhoods and increased traffic.

SG Collaborative’s Larry Chapman said that while opposition to Douglass Hill has been vocal, a poll commissioned by SG shows a narrow margin of support for the project.

In related news at Tuesday’s Webster Groves Council meeting, the council unanimously voted to reject a citizens petition to change two charter amendments by public vote. 

Organized by the Webster Groves Residents Organization, the petition requests that ordinances passed by the council to change uses in residential districts, alter stream buffer requirements or call for the use of eminent domain must go to a public vote. If passed by voters, the charter changes would have a direct impact on the Douglass Hill project.

Council members on Tuesday agreed to send a letter to the petitioner, Webster Groves Residents Organization, stating that the petition is “legally deficient and will not be acted on by the city.”  City Attorney Neil Bruntrager determined that the charter amendments violated both state statutes and the city’s charter. He said the amendments limit the powers of the city council — powers that are granted  by the charter and the state.

Richard Mazzarella, president of Webster Groves Residents Organization, said his group disagrees with the city attorney’s determination. He said the petitioners will wait for the outcome of the Dec. 7 city council vote on the  rezoning and TIF. Should the vote go in favor of the Douglass Hill project, Mazzarella said his group will file a writ of mandamus seeking a court to direct the council to “perform the legal duties which it has not or refused to perform.”

Douglass Hill Community Meeting

Community members will have a final opportunity to learn more or ask questions about the proposed Douglass Hill redevelopment. A community meeting will be held Tuesday, Nov. 30, from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m., at the Hixson Middle School gymnasium, 630 S. Elm Ave. Attendees will have the opportunity to speak one-on-one with members of the city council, department heads and representatives from SG Collaborative. The event will not be streamed.