A proposed development at 17803, 17815 and 17831 Wild Horse Creek Road could become the new gatekeeper for the largest surviving Native American burial mound in St. Louis County.
McBride Homes plans to develop a 35-acre parcel at the current site of Barat Academy High School, which is near Blake Mound. The school plans to cease operations at the end of the school year.
Currently zoned “LLR” Large Lot Residential and “NU” Non-Urban, the developer is seeking a rezoning to E-1AC Estate District, and then to a PUD-Planned Unit Development District.
A public hearing was held by the Chesterfield Planning Commission Oct. 25.
At the meeting, City Planner Chris Dietz explained that the E-1 District requires parcels to be a minimum of 1 acre. The PUD District allows flexibility to the density requirements and development standards of the zoning ordinance. He said the proposal meets the requirements for a PUD District, which include maximum residential density, at least 30% open space, buffering of at least 30-feet in width on all sides of the property, and consistency with the comprehensive plan.
The applicant is proposing to retain 88% of the existing tree canopy, Dietz said. A 50-foot landscape buffer would run along Wild Horse Creek Road with 30-foot landscape buffers along the sides and rear of the property.
Blake Mound would remain, as indicated in the preliminary development plan. The mound is an Osage Nation Sacred Site and on the National Register of Historic Places.
It is listed as a structure of historic interest by the Chesterfield Historic Landmark and Preservation Committee. The applicant has dedicated 12.5 acres to common ground, which will include the mound itself, a mulch trail around the mound, a pavilion and a parking area for residents within the subdivision, Dietz said.
Once the subdivision is built, the property would be operated by the HOA subdivision.
Jeannie Aumiller, general counsel with McBride, said the request for a PUD is to preserve the mound as part of common ground, so it would be protected. The care-of-mound protocol has been written into the proposed subdivision HOA agreement. In addition, a protective covenant with the state of Missouri restricts anyone from building on or destroying the mound.
The mound would not be accessible to the public and the only visitors allowed would be those doing research or for educational purposes, she said.
Single-family luxury-type homes in the Estates at Fire Rock will include ranch, 1.5- and 2-story models with 3-car side entry garages. Homes would range between 2,500 and 4,000 square feet, with an average price of $800,000. The style of homes would be compatible with the design in surrounding communities, including significant landscaping along Wild Horse Creek Road, Aumiller said.
McBride has been in discussions with Mark Leach, the unofficial gatekeeper of Blake’s Mound. For the past 16 years, Leach has served as the volunteer restoration and research coordinator of Chesterfield’s Blake Mound and Cave Archaeological Site, where he spearheaded the restoration after 100 years of grave-robbing damage.
Leach is the author of a book entitled, “Chesterfield’s Ancient Past – Mounds, Mortuaries & the Mall.”
“Recently, I’ve worked very closely with planners and executives at Elite Development and McBride Homes as they put together their development plans for the property,” he said. “They have not only met each and every one of my concerns, they have actually exceeded my wildest expectations.”
The site was an important sacred shrine for the Cahokian community that filled the greater Chesterfield Valley nearly 1,000 years ago.
“Throughout the project I’ve maintained regular communications with archaeologists at the State Historic Preservation Office and the Osage Nation,” Leach said.
As a trustee of the Missouri Archaeological Society, Leach said he would like to remain in the role of research coordinator. Various universities are currently undertaking studies there and he is familiar with all of the parties involved, he said.
In his discussions with archaeologists at the Osage Nation, they talked about holding a special mound commemoration ceremony, where a delegation from the Nation would perform a blessing of the site, similar to an event held when they purchased Sugar Loaf Mound in the city of St. Louis.
Other residents who spoke at the public hearing included John Drake, who was concerned about the project impacting the adjacent common ground in Terra Oaks Drive. He said there is a 60-foot-deep ravine and that they have had problems with erosion. He wants to ensure there is no additional water runoff onto their property.
Paul Summers, whose home is closest to the southwest corner of the property, was concerned about what would be built in that section and about additional traffic, stating that between 6:30-7:30 a.m. traffic on Wild Horse Creek Road is “horrendous.”
“It creates quite a congestion in the area,” Summers said.
Aumiller responded that there would be nothing built on that corner and, in addition to the detention basin up front, surface water would be piped underground to a basin at the other end of the site.
An additional 10-foot of right-of-way on Wild Horse Creek Road would be dedicated to MoDOT for possible left-turn lanes, she said.
No vote was taken at the meeting.