Landmarks Association of St. Louis

Results of the Rock Hill Planning and Zoning Committee Meeting

               Rock Hill Presbyterian Church

The Rock Hill Planning and Zoning Commission meet July 6th to discuss the site plan and architectural review for the gas station that would replace the Rock Hill Presbyterian Church.  Before the discussion, the public was allowed to comment on any items on the agenda.  Several people rose to speak in opposition of the site plan that would pave the way for the third relocation of the Fairfax House and the Rock Hill Church.  Among the five individuals voicing opposition was Harold Schnedler, former pastor of the Rock Hill Presbyterian Church.  Schnedler, who traveled from his home in Keosauqua, Iowa, pleaded for preservation of the church.  He equated the selling of the church by the Presbytery for monetary gain to the biblical story Esau giving his birthright to his brother Jacob for a bowl of soup. 

The Commission itself voiced its dissention over the proposed demolition of the church.  Committee member Art Korte read a statement expressing his decision to abstain from a vote to approve the site plan allowing the demolition of the church.  Korte said while driving the three mile stretch from Big Bend to Berry Road on Manchester he counted five gas stations and one car wash.  He also stated that demolishing the church for a gas station "is an insult to the slaves that built it".  After Korte's statement, committee member Jeffery Pounds asked "on what grounds can we not approve this plan because this is a travesty".  The board said the approval of the site plan could not be slated for a future date over environmental or historic concerns.

During the vitriolic comments regarding the demolition of the church, Bill Beirman rose to calm the dissenter's concerns.  Beirman, attorney for U-Gas who wants to develop the site, recognized the historical significance of the church and house.  He stated that U-Gas had worked over a year to create a solution concerning the historic buildings but none were reasonable or financially feasible.  Committee members Weider and Anderson admitted this was a difficult decision.  The buildings are the heart and soul of the community.  However, this is a private transaction and the Presbyterian church was aware of the intentions of U-Gas.  At this point Craig Taylor, the CEO of U-Gas, stepped forward to explain the intentions of his company.  Taylor expressed his appreciation of the historic site and pointed out on the site plan that a historic marker would be placed at the former location of the church.

The deliberation of the site plan and future of the church was interrupted by city attorney Paul Martin.  Martin who came as a spectator, offered his services as an attorney regarding any question of legality.  He suggested the board meet in a closed session to mitigate the contention amongst themselves.  At that moment, thunder rolled and the heavens opened as it began to downpour.  It seemed a higher being was making their opposition known to the committee.  After a short period of time the committee returned.  An amendment was created stipulating that the church would remain for six months. During this time, a plan could be devised to save the church.  If a plan is not created or the church is not moved to a new location within six months, U-Gas has to give the city 30 days notice before demolishing the church.  After the amendment was explained, the committee made a voice vote and all agreed to approve the amended site plan, except Korte who abstained.