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Additional Notes from Hearing on Energy Center

October 19, 2007 25th Ward, Events/Meetings, NLEC, South City 2 Comments

Yesterday’s meeting on the conditional use application for the Energy Center to be operated by the New Life Evangelistic Center was interesting to say the least.  To clarify, it was only about the zoning for the use of the former florist shop & greenhouse.

Larry Rice spoke on behalf of his plan for the property, calling for “healing” between the white and black communities in St. Louis.  He commented that at last week’s informational meeting there was not a black person in the room (true) — implying this is some sort of white bias I guess.  Interestingly, the first person to speak against the energy center was a black homeowner that lives across the street from the property in question.

Rice, at one point, indicated the property looked better than it did a year ago.  This is certainly true, I’ve known the place since 1994 and it has never looked better.   Rice said the neighbors loved the improvements they had made, that they had cut down high weeds and fixed broken greenhouse glass that was inherited from the previous owner.  But Rice only bought the property in July of this year — after improvements had been made and grass cut.  The previous owner, Susan Jansen, is one of his supporters and she was seated in the row behind him.  His remark confirmed my suspicion — Rice bought the property last November but in Jansen’s name rather than New Life Evangelistic Center.  He views the previous owner as the one Jansen purchased it from.

A Post-Dispatch story posted yesterday following the meeting with a headline “Residents mad about Rice’ center” included this near the end:

After the hearing, Rice said he was dismayed at his opponents’ anger that’s built up over the last month.

“I’m  sensing a hostility directed at homeless people I haven’t seen in 35 years,”  said  Rice.  “I  grieve over the bitterness and fear I’m seeing in south St. Louis.”

Today the online version drops the above.  The new headline is  “Rev. Rice gets hammered by Dutchtown residents at hearing.”  New in this version is:

The property includes a former flower shop with a greenhouse and the house next door. Rice bought them over the summer for $216,000.

Rice said if he doesn’t get the permits, he’ll appeal the city’s decision. He said if his appeal fails, “we’ll use it as transitional housing or low-income housing.”

Terrell Eiland, a zoning specialist with the St. Louis department of public safety who chaired the hearing, said that Rice would need another permit to operate the property as a residence for multiple people.

Again, just to clarify the property that was under consideration for a conditional use permit yesterday was only the storefront and greenhouse — not the old frame house and open land.  Ironically Rice has said numerous times that you can’t house people in a greenhouse — it is too hot.  Certainly a logical statement.  So would he invest additional money to raze the storefront and greenhouse to build some sort of group home?  Doubtful.

Following the meeting Ald. Kirner asked me how everyone did.  I agreed that everyone, including her, did a good job.  I thanked her for withdrawing her prior support.  Still, I don’t think even Larry Rice should be subjected to our changes with the wind form of approval/non-approval from our elected officials.  This is not to say that Kirner should support the project because she earlier expressed support.  But while claiming that she must listing to constituents now, why weren’t they consulted before?  Conditional use zoning for any business that brings in large quantities of people to a residential block is something that at least the owners on that block need to be consulted on before approval is given.

A question that remains for me is if the city will allow him to operate his “energy fair” that he has already scheduled for October 27th from 10am to 2pm?  This is probably a question for our new public safety director, Charles Bryson.  Maybe it should go on — it would make an interesting backdrop for a protest along the public sidewalk in front of his property.


Currently there are "2 comments" on this Article:

  1. neighbor says:

    Did Rice meet with neighborhood organizations or block units prior to seeking his conditional use permit? Did he have any formal community support for his CUP request? On what basis did Ald. Kirner support his plans in the first place?

    $216,000 sounds like a high price to pay for an obsolete commercial property generating zero income and in need of rehab or redevelopment. If the energy/homeless center plan craters, what are some other possible uses for this property, and would they justify the $216,000 purchase price.

    [SLP — I’m not aware of any meeting prior to him submitting his request.  To my knowledge he simply opened one day and was then told he needed to get occupancy.  The $216K would be the price he paid for both properties combined — one from his friend Susan Jansen.  I’m not sure how much of this was real estate and how much was various improvements such as installation of solar panels.]

    This deal is starting to sound like Larry Rice’s NLEC has purchased that proverbial “pig in a poke”.

  2. M.L. says:

    Just a clarification. The first person to speak was a black RENTER who lives across the street. I think it’s important to note that not even the renters are interested in having Mr. Rice on their block. This man stated to me in a personal conversation that his two neighbors, also renters, couldn’t attend the hearing but they don’t want the energy center either. It speaks volumes when a renter will take time out of his day to go to city hall and speak against this conditional use.

    [SLP — Thanks, I must have heard incorrectly.  Good point — even renters on the block don’t want the nuisance this center would create from large events.]


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