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Maplewood Mayor: School Board Made it Clear QT Discussion Was Over

Mayor James White said closing Martini Drive to through traffic needs to be done whether or not QuikTrip is built.

At the end of March, this year, Maplewood Richmond Heights School Board President Maria Langston wrote an open letter opposing a proposed QuikTrip relocation to the northeast corner of Manchester Road and Big Bend Boulevard, across a road to school property.

The school board stated concern for the safety of students who had to cross the intersection with a gas station on the corner.

After months of negotiations between the school board, QuikTrip and the city the Maplewood City Council took the final vote on Nov. 27.

Mayor James White made this statement before the vote:

The council has done its due diligence with this bill. This bill has lasted longer than any other bill in the last 30 years, drawn out, trying to work with the school district for a compromise. Even Walmart and Sam’s didn’t take this long, so the school district has done its due diligence.

But there are some things, through the process of dealing with the school district, that has come to the forefront. The school district has stated on more than one occasion, both publicly and privately, that they would like to own this property. What is the school district’s true motive to opposing QuikTrip?

The school district has admitted privately and publicly, that the intersection of Manchester and Big Bend is a dangerous intersection. The superintendent, school board members, said they stood there and saw how dangerous is intersection was.

The impact of the new CVS store and proposed QuikTrip store will not add significant safety concerns to this intersection over and above what already exists.

There are approximately 60 students that use this intersection at Big Bend and Manchester from the high school, middle school and early childhood center each school day.

QuikTrip Corporation inquired as to the possibility of providing bus service for these kids to keep them away from this admittedly dangerous intersection. The school district has it within their power to eliminate this, and the school kids going through this intersection.

We are encouraging our students, when we asked, the response from the superintendent of schools was, we encourage our students to walk to and from school to promote physical fitness.

If this intersection is so unsafe, why are we encouraging students to access this intersection?

The city feels very strongly about closing Martini to through traffic. Preventing students and pedestrians from accessing the high school from Martini is a much safer solution than the school district’s proposal for student safety.

The City of Maplewood has offered to close Martini at the northern property line of QuikTrip and provide a new access to Big Bend, which has been rejected on more than one occasion by the school district.

The city feels strongly that closing Martini to through traffic needs to be done whether or not QuikTrip locates on the spot.

The City of Maplewood officials and school district officials have met on numerous occasions to see if there are things to be done to mitigate the school’s concerns.

The school district had 10 concerns.

Of the 10 concerns the mayor and council have agreed with over half of the district’s concerns. One of the district’s concerns, not allowing access from QuikTrip to Martini, would have completely killed the project.

QuikTrip could not exist without an exit onto Martini.

The mayor and city council feel very strongly that their proposal for student safety is much safer than what the school district wants.

QuikTrip Corporation has offered to pay for an additional crossing guard at the intersection of Manchester and Big Bend.

On November 21st, the school board's letter to the council stated they wanted to continue to have constructive dialog, while at the same time, a school board member, three days later, was holding a meeting at Stone Spiral for the purposes of starting a referendum process.

The school district has made it abundantly clear that there is no reason to have further discussion.

So, we have a motion and a second on the bill. Roll call please.

All voted yes except for Ward 3 Councilman Shawn Faulkingham who voted no.

The letter Mayor White referred to in his comments is included with this article as a PDF file.

Lincoln Douglas December 03, 2012 at 04:31 AM
I disagree with the Mayor, but I can appreciate the transparency with which this business has been conducted. I live in the neighborhood that the Mayor wants to have bussed to school, but I moved here because the area is supposedly walkable. Putting my kid on a bus to travel less than 1 mile is ludicrous and a waste of resources. The streets are narrow and in dire need of repair, and now he wants create additional bus traffic on them? As communities around the country are looking to enhance the walkability of their towns, why hasn't Maplewood looked into making it's two main arteries (Big Bend and Manchester) safer for pedestrians? One dead pedestrian is one too many. Granted, QT has made some decent (and expensive) proposals to mitigate the problems they are creating by moving. And the set-back for the new building will actually enhance visibility at the intersection. I just wish that the council had put more thought into what it creates: a major intersection in front of a school with two gas stations, a White Castle, and a CVS, in addition to a dirty (i.e., in need of abatement) and empty building at Big Bend and Flora. Is that what Maplewood is about in the 21st century? Really?
mlk December 03, 2012 at 05:41 PM
I find it interesting that the school district has expressed an interest in owning this piece of property! What's really going on here MRHSD?
Joyce Wilson December 03, 2012 at 06:34 PM
As a non-student pedestrian in the area myself, the school-bus "solution" that Mayor White proposes does nothing to promote my safety. And in any case, the solution for an intersection that's dangerous to pedestrians isn't to put all the pedestrians on buses, it's to make the intersection safe for all road users, including pedestrians, bicyclists, transit users, and drivers. Sedentary diseases are killers, and walking to school can help form healthy habits that don't just add years to your life, but add life to your years!
TP December 04, 2012 at 03:31 PM
I find it interesting that the Mayor wanted to make it sound like a bad thing that the school district would like to own enough property to expand and create an entrance that is more visible to the larger community. Who wouldn't? This was topic for discussion and was suggested by many parents and community members during some long-term planning sessions earlier in the year. However, the property is not for sale and a school district could not put money into a property that was only for lease. That is the big bad story that the Mayor wants you to think is underhanded. There is no great conspiracy, just a piece of property that isn't for sale. If there is something sneaky and underhanded about wishing you could have something that isn't available, then I think most people are more than a little guilty of that.

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