Friday, February 23, 2007

Case In Point By Joe Koester, Councilman Ward 9

Wherever they burn books they will also, in the end, burn human beings.
Heinrich Heine

A Post column from John Sonderegger dated February 4th, 2007 did a good job trying to make the City the bad guys when a car dealership decided to move to O’Fallon; you know, the one under the water tower. John Gieseke did a good job clarifying the facts of the matter; however, I wanted to respond here to some things quoted in the piece.

First of all, the concerned residents of Olde Towne Estates didn’t see the jovial, humorous Trenary as seen on TV. Residents were treated as annoyances in the way of what a businessman wanted to do. The neighboring residents wanted to protect their property values and the current zoning laws for the adjacent property. Any one of us can appreciate this. Simply put, had Trenary been at the West Clay site and then a subdivision put in that in turn complained about the dealership as a neighbor, it would make sense to defend the business. When the opposite is true, it makes sense to defend the neighborhood. Trenary stated, “We’ll try to take our sense of humor out that way.” Sadly, had more humor and humility been afforded the working men and women who are his customers right from the start, perhaps an early compromise could have been reached regarding the relocation of the dealership. Several alternative locations with highway frontage were offered up, but for the auto dealership, it was this spot or no spot at all.
A further quote continues, claiming that the current City Council legacy will be that, “they ran another auto dealer out of town.”

I’m, I’m quite certain that not only did we not run Trenary out of town, this council has not run any dealership out of town. It is true that our City does not wish to allow any more used car lots in town. Could that be what he meant? You see, by “running out of town” the dealership owner meant “didn’t allow a blank check to a powerful businessman.” By the way, if you doubt his power, just see the aforementioned column – eleventh paragraph. It reads:

Now, if you eat lunch at Pio’s and you hold court there with Ernie Dempsey and his pals, you’d think the local pols would treat you with more respect than Trenary was afforded a couple of years ago when he wanted to buy property along West Clay Street...”

This sentence tells you that the columnist is taken with such power and connections to even mention this and it also lets you know that Trenary was well connected to the good-old-boy network that runs much of our government. I can say that I was glad that John Gieseke resisted the awe that a Pio’s-eating, local celebrity brings to the table and instead he chose to do the right thing (“do the right thing” - those words have been forever altered in the local vocabulary). John chose to support the local homeowners who like their quiet streets and want to keep them that way. These homeowners are our neighbors and live among us – not in Town and Country. For many, their home’s value means a safer retirement and for our town’s future, favorable neighborhoods mean new families who will call our town home.

Today, a beautiful development inspired by Frank Lloyd Wright is being constructed on the West Clay site where, had it not been for concerned residents, a sea of cars would have taken out old-growth trees and a well-built building. Today, several new businesses already call the building home and work continues to add more businesses and towards the back of the property housing - including senior housing.
Where Trenary’s business is departing underneath the water tower, a developer is interested in developing new retail. Our City has an opportunity to clean up First Capitol Drive which should be our main objective for the next three years.

It needs to be said too that Trenary stated, “I’m still a friend of St. Charles.”

I’m glad to hear that – I’m no enemy of Trenary. His plan couldn’t get through planning and zoning. That’s all there really is to the matter. I wish Trenary continued success at his new location. I pray that the American car manufacturers can stabilize their market so that down the road, Trenary still has a product to sell. I know I have been happy with my GM product for years now.