Residents worry development of area could pave way for more

Monday, June 11, 2007

O'FALLON, Mo. -- For years as development has boomed in St. Charles County outside of St. Louis, the Busch conservation area has provided an oasis from the region's subdivisions and stores.

The almost 7,000-acre site has 38 lakes, walking trails and an array of wildlife.

But the city of O'Fallon wants to annex the preserve to gain a contiguous boundary with the Missouri Research Park, an area known for its high-tech and research facilities. That has many residents in the region worried about the conservation area's future.

A public hearing and vote on O'Fallon's 12.6-square-mile annexation plan, which includes the research park, the conservation area and a 400-acre portion of the Weldon Spring Wildlife Management Area, is set to take place July 6 at its city hall. On the same date, the community of Weldon Spring will hold a similar hearing and vote on whether to annex just the research park.

O'Fallon City Administrator Robert Lowery Jr. said the city wants the preserve only to gain the needed boundary with the Missouri Research Park.

Lowery said the move was not made with the intention of expanding the city to the southwest. He has also said the city would not alter the wildlife preserve or try to supersede state management.

But others fear O'Fallon's annexation would give the city a nearly 3-mile stretch of land next to a roadway, effectively giving it a launching point to annex farmland for new subdivisions.

St. Charles County resident Cal Stacker, 58, who lives near the wildlife preserve, has views of farms and bluffs. Residents near the preserve say they've relied on the state-owned preserve to keep cities and developers from having access to more untouched parts of the region.

Stacker said St. Charles County has features that "most counties in the country would die to have." He listed high-tech industry and shopping in an area with the historic Daniel Boone Homestead and wine country.

"There's no reason they all can't coexist side by side with each other," he said.

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