A new auto leasing center at the corner Jeffco Boulevard and McClain Drive is one step closer to becoming a reality.
At last week's meeting, the Arnold City Council voted 5-to-3 in favor of a conditional use permit for Rent to Own Auto Center, which would be located at the former site of Arnold Rental - 1204 Jeffco Blvd. The property is zoned commercial.
Doris Borgelt and Cricky Lang, of Ward 1, Michelle Hohmeier, of Ward 2, and Ken Moss and Sandra Kownacki, of Ward 4, voted in favor of the move. Bill Moritz, of Ward 2, and Phila Amato and Paul Freese, of Ward 3, voted against the permit.
Randy Blount, the company's managing partner, said the business is a new concept in the St. Louis area in which customers can lease a car for a day , a week, a month or more without a credit card. He said if a car is leased for four years, the lessee is offered the title - at no charge - because the four-year payments cover the cost of the vehicle.
"We should not have been required to apply for a conditional use permit," Blount told councilmembers. "We are a rental and leasing business, we don't sell cars."
Regardless, Blount addressed the conditions of the permit, which included traffic congestion, blowing trash, rainwater runoff into the neighboring Windcrest subdivision and the addition of a 15-foot buffer to the residential area.
Blount told councilmembers there was not alot that could be done about traffic to the business, but promised that the company would patrol the area for trash. He said the company hired an engineering firm to determine what the runoff problem was.
"The firm recommended that we connect the two gutters with a pipe and send it to the storm sewer, which we will do," Blount said. "However, it would be impossible to add a 15-foot buffer to what already exists. We would have to tear down the building and rebuild."
Prior to the council's vote, several residents from the subdivision voiced concerns about the business during a public hearing on the matter. Their biggest worries were unwanted traffic to their neighborhood and the safety of children at a nearby bus stop.
They sited McClain Drive as already having a speeding problem and being a difficult street to maneuver. Residents also worry the business will draw "strangers" to their neighborhood performing test drives, further comprising the safety of students at a nearby bus stop.
"Our entrance to the subdivision, especially at rush hour, is already a disaster," said Mike Evans, a Windcrest resident. "What price do you put on a child's safety?"
Hohmeier said because the property is zoned commercial, any retailer or restaurant could set up shop at the location.
"If we say no because we don't like car lots, we are being arbitrary," she said. "Another business could mean much more traffic there. You guys (the residents who live in the subdivision) are just in a bad place."
There are numerous streets in Arnold and Jefferson County that are dangerously hard to negotiate while driving because of hills. Jeffco Boulevard and McClain Drive is one of them.
On her Facebook page, Hohmeier said, "I live in Linderhoff where we not only have businesses surrounding our bus stop, but also a dangerous hill cresting just before our subdivision entrance. The solution for traffic in and out of Linderhoff is the same at this location, as the bus pulls across the subdivision entrance, blocking the road as the children load and unload the bus."
Blount said the business is hoping to open within the next few weeks. He said the next step is a hearing before the city's Board of Adjustment regarding the additional 15-foot buffer request between the business and the subdivision. He noted that there is already an existing 15-foot buffer between the properties.