Proposal to Develop Conservation District Prompts Discussion

Article excerpt

"It's amazing what one rundown house can do to the 20 around it. Who wants to live next to a very trashy property?"

That concern, says R. Wes Walters III, is why residents of Glasgow Village want a property conservation district. Walters, chairman of the subdivision's Board of Trustees, has been working for months to get the designation. The district in north St. Louis County would be the first in an unincorporated area.

Buyers and renters in the district would need occupancy permits from St. Louis County before they could move into houses or apartments. Sellers and landlords would have to make repairs required by the county's home maintenance code before an occupancy permit is issued.

The county Planning Commission has recommended the plan to the County Council. Walters said he hopes that the district will be in place by the New Year.

St. Louis County does not require occupancy permits in unincorporated areas. The County Council set up the district system two years ago, to give the code enforcement tool to neighborhoods that want it. The system is similar to one that has operated in St. Louis for eight years. Many municipalities in the county require residential occupancy permits, but Ferguson voters rejected the idea on Nov. 8.

Glasgow Village, with 1,756 houses and about 5,200 residents, is one of the largest subdivisions in St. Louis County. Most houses are small, frame, ranch houses at least 40 years old. Through the years, most owners replaced the original trim with siding and many added carports or garages.

The conservation district would consist of the subdivision and a largely wooded area between it and Interstate 270. The district would be bounded by I-270, and the city limits of St. Louis, Riverview Gardens and Bellefontaine Neighbors.

In a report to the County Council, the Planning Commission said 13 percent of the houses need repair. "Only a very few needed major structural repairs, and none appeared to be dilapidated beyond rehabilitation," the report said.

Walter said, "The trustees have been getting more and more complaints" about such matters as high weeds or junk cars.

"We suggested that people do this or that," he said. "But we have very little muscle."

The county report said that in the last seven years the assessed value of houses in Glasgow Village has increased by 1 percent, while the value of houses in the entire county has increased by 26 percent.

"Houses aren't being sold for their assessed value," Walters said.

Larry Smith, a longtime resident who lives at 455 Midlothian Road, added, "I bought my house for $52,000. I couldn't sell it for $45,000. …