March 17, 2013

This Land Is My Land

Where I grew up, private neighborhood streets were rare. None of my friends lived on gated streets, and city plows did not pass over anyone’s street during storms. But in Saint Louis, private streets seem to be more common. Some Sunset Hills residents living on private streets want to keep them that way.

Alwal Moore owns a 10-acre property near Tapawingo National Golf Course. He had plans to construct a private library on the property that would offer cultural classes such as violin and yoga. But the streets leading to his property are privately owned, and homeowners were not happy with his plans.

Resident Chris Rothrock said the library “will be nothing short of disruptive to all of our lives and it presents a significant safety threat to all of the children in our neighborhood.”

Overwhelming opposition to the project, including a petition that 68 percent of residents on surrounding streets signed, prompted the Sunset Hills Board of Aldermen to reject Moore’s private library proposal. But why was the government involved in the first place?

As a private neighborhood, these homeowners have a right to stipulate how their streets will be used and who will use them. Moore, as a private property owner (not part of the surrounding neighborhood associations), has a right to do what he wants, to a certain extent, with his property.

Zoning laws already allow the construction of a library in a residential neighborhood. I do not see a need for additional government approval here.  If private property owners oppose the project,  that is a matter for them to take up with Moore without government involvement.

Moore should be able to work out a deal with area residents to get them on board, such as contributing toward their annual maintenance fees. Because, what good would the library be if homeowners decided to close their streets to public traffic?

A project of the


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