FARMINGTON — Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus, but he likely won’t be bringing a new auto parts store to Farmington any time soon. That was the word from the Farmington City Council meeting held Monday evening.
Council members discussed a long list of topics, including preparations for the Winter Wonderland display and the arrival of Santa and Mrs. Claus following the annual Christmas parade downtown on Dec. 8. But the topic that had most of the seats filled at the meeting was the pending vote on an rezoning request for property slated for a national auto parts store off Karsch Boulevard.
For a third time developer and businessman Denny Pogue was asking Planning and Zoning and the council to approve a request to change zoning on a portion of his land near the corner of Karsch Boulevard and A Street. He owns a commercial lot where his real estate business was located for several years. He also owns the first three houses on the same side of A Street.
Pogue was asking the city to rezone a portion of the back yards of his three homes to make a larger commercial lot facing Karsch Boulevard. He had said he had a buyer which intended to locate a nationally known auto parts store on the lot.
Several people living in the A and C streets area began opposing Pogue’s plan the first time it went before Planning and Zoning. That first time he was asking that all four lots be made commercial. Planning and Zoning was not in favor of his plan.
He came back a second time with a plan to leave the three homes intact, and merely take a portion of the back yard of each to enlarge his commercial lot. Planning and Zoning gave their blessing, but when the matter came to the council it ended in a tie vote. Mayor Jeannie Roberts sided with the A and C street residents and voted against the rezoning request.
Pogue revised his request for rezoning and brought it back before the council early this month. He was asking for the same rezoning, but with the dimensions of the portions to be changed having been modified slightly. Planning and Zoning moved the request ahead with full approval. But when it came down to a vote of the council Monday evening the votes remained the same. Council members L.J. Miller, Don Johnson, Dennis Smith and Vonne Phillips were in favor of the rezoning, while David Coleman, Darrell Holdman, Ron Perryman and Jeff Firehammer were against the rezoning. For a second time Roberts was left to cast the deciding vote — and she once again denied the rezoning request.
Pogue and a group of supporters left the council meeting early. He later said he would now weigh his options on the future of the property and the effort to have the land rezoned so he could best utilize the real estate he already holds.
Other matters discussed at the meeting included a preliminary plan to study ways to come into compliance with federal regulations regarding radionuclides in the drinking water system. Farmington, like many communities in Southeast Missouri, has fallen out of compliance with recent changes in the acceptable levels of radionuclide contamination in drinking water.
Radionuclides occur when naturally-occurring radioactive particles trapped in bedrock are flushed into the underground aquifer of an area. The contamination is essentially harmless in quantities of water consumed by a human, yet the acceptable levels were lowered by the EPA a number of years ago. Now cities must come up with ways to meet those standards.
City Administrator Greg Beavers said Farmington has a couple options, and must weight the most cost-effective measures. Bringing the city’s potable water system into compliance could cost millions of dollars, and upkeep could exceed a million dollars a year. If that had to be done the cost of operating the city’s water system would more than double for the annual maintenance alone.
Beavers is proposing a study which would involved drilling wells that would produce more water with less contaminants, and then use those wells to replace smaller existing wells with higher radionuclide levels. Other potential plans call for working with some existing wells to lower contamination.
The council gave Beavers approval to move forward with studying treatment options.
Council members also approved bills to work out a plan with East Missouri Action Agency on energy bill cost relief for low income residents, and a plan to pursue adding crosswalks to Karsch Boulevard.