(St. Joseph,MO) The debate over the closure of Monterey Street in lieu of a $250million biofuel plant came to an end Monday, when the developer withdrew his request hours before the city council was scheduled to vote.
Monday afternoon St. Joseph Biofuels Developer Geoff Hirson sent a letter to Mayor Bill McMurray withdrawing his request for the city to vacate Monterey. Hirson did not give a specific reason why he withdrew his request to vacate the street, but in previous work sessions had made it clear the project could not continue without the closure of Monterey Street from 6th Street to 8th Street.
McMurray said the project had been a controversial issue, because of the business being industrial in nature and the property being located near residential areas.
“All of us on the council received numerous emails, pro and con, certainly people wanting to close the street were in the minority, those against closing the street were in a pretty big majority,” McMurray said.
The proposed plant would have created 60 new jobs with an average annual income of approximately $60,000. Other than estimated job creation, the city was provided with limited information on the proposed plant. The city staff wasn’t provided with a traffic study showing how the closure would impact the flow of traffic and there was limited information on how it could impact first responders in emergency situations.
“One of the confounding things was that we just didn’t have a lot of information on this project. The issue was on whether or not to close the street then the project itself would be vetted when the developer applied for a conditional use permit,” McMurray said. “Many of the issues on people’s minds would have been answered by a conditional use permit.”
Various businesses,residents, environmental groups and the Community Action Partnership had previously expressed concerns about safety, noise, odor and diminished property values.
City councilmember At Large Brian Myers suggested the council have a work session with the railroad and the Chamber of Commerce to rezone the property for future businesses.
“We need as a city to come together and figure out a viable alternative as to what we are going to be doing with that property. I'm going to propose this evening that the city, the city, the chamber and Burlington Northern Santa Fe railroad, which owns a majority of the property there, come together, sit down and figure out a way to get this rezoned M1, that way we won’t have this issue come up in the future,” Myers said.
The area selected for the proposed project is currently zoned for industrial production, but Myers said he feels it could better serve the community as a site for light manufacturing. Currently there are no other investors interested in developing the property.