The Early Professional Planning of Sunset Hills
The first master land and zoning plan of Sunset Hills was drawn by Edward J. Thias, an architect who taught architectural design and city planning at Washington University for many years. The Zoning and Planning Commission members during this early period were:
Edward J. Thias; Chairman
Amadee Wohlschlaeger; Vice-Chairman and artist
Syl Schmidt Architect
Albert Johner, long time Lindbergh School District Board Member
Otto Goetz, landscape nurseryman
All members resided in Sunset Hills.
The first early planning was done with great concentration and consideration of retaining the good aesthetics of the natural environment during this period. Many of the roadways and lot layouts were indigenous to the contours of the land. Syl Schmidt was the first Planning Chairman and Edward J. Thias followed him.
The beautiful natural terrain of the early land districts still remains in this area which evolved through St. Louis County and the early commission.
Early Planning and Zoning Commission
The early commission reviewed, recommended, and set up the description of the character of the land. It opposed the unnecessary loss to trees. Many hours of research and study were made with numerous recommendations to official and residents in an effort to save the trees and natural ecology.
Regretfully the construction of the major 244-highway system interchange eliminated great areas of the natural land.
The City of Sunset Hills is somewhat rural in character and the land is not as yet fully developed. The existing housing is low density, single-family nature. The city is named for its hills, which create an attractive setting with the Meramec River forming its western boundary. It was to become a fourth class city, governed by a Mayor and Board of Aldermen, each elected for 2-year terms. The city is divided into 3 wards. There are 6 aldermen on the board, 2 representing each ward. In addition to the above governing board are the following officials; Municipal Court Judge and Collector, each elected for 2-year terms. The Mayor with approval of the Board of Aldermen appoints the City Attorney, Prosecuting Attorney, and Treasurer. There is a Planning and Zoning Commission consisting of 7 members whose duties are to decide zoning matters and make recommendations to the Board of Aldermen. A Board of Adjustment with 7 members hears all appeals and grants variances. The city is in the southwestern portion of St. Louis County, has a land area of 8 square miles. In 1970, the population was 4,126.
Growth & Park Expansion
By 1976, the city had grown to employ 23 full-time people to run its general offices, Public Works Department, Engineering Department, Police Department, and Municipal Court. There is 1 developed city park, Lynstone Park in Ward I, of approximately 3/4 acre, consisting of a playground, basketball court, soccer field, and barbecue pits. The city has recently acquired 27.722 acres of land, 22.524 of which is being developed as a municipal park and 5.198 will be reserved for future city facilities. The city also owns 4 acres which is used as a ball field but not an officially designated park.
During the years of growth for the city there have been some burning issues leading to some hotly contested elections. Questions such as apartment buildings, spot zoning, a Police Department, and a City Hall have excited the residents. Other election years have come and gone without any challenges or competition. There is always a fairly high percentage of citizens voting.
The city has seen fine new housing developments take the place of farms. Windsor Spring is now filled in, stopped up and covered with lovely homes. Robyn Hills has been built over General Grant's wagon trail, Forest Ridge homes cling to the hillside overlooking Sunset Country Club and Marquis Estates, just west of 270 is being developed on land once refused by Shriner's Hospital because it was too far from a main highway. Another large segment of Waterhout land along East Watson has just been subdivided and 1 home is completed, ready for new owners.
Businesses have contributed much to the city's growth as well. They line sections of the main highways, 366, Lindbergh, Gravois and serve the community in many capacities. There are well over 100 business establishments which is remarkable for an area as small as ours. The businesses are in a concentrated area, which leaves much open land yet available for residential growth.
Our residents are active, civic-minded citizens. The St. Louis County Supervisor, Gene McNary, is a resident of our city. The schools of the Lindbergh District provide sponsors for the Boy Scout and Girl Scout groups. The adult community provides many able leaders for the boys and girls. The South County WMCA also presents a broad field of activities. Masonic Lodges sponsor DeMolay Chapter; Order of the Eastern Star sponsors Job's Daughter. Our Shriners belong to the Moolah Temple, which has honored our city by naming 2 of our residents. Mr. Paul Krueger and Mr. Elmer Kempf, Grand Imperial Potentate. There is a Sunset Hills Lions Club. Our own Bill Seebold, World Champion OZ Motorboat Driver, has worked through the Concord Lions Club to bring World Motorboating Competition to George Winter Park. Crestwood and Sunset Hills share a Rotary Club, Optimist Club, Sertoma and Kiwanis Club. The Sunset Hills Extension Club of the University of Missouri is a service club of women that has served the community since the mid-40's. It would take pages to name leaders of PTA, Scouts, and Service Organizations. So many have served so well in so many different fields. There are accomplished scientists, artists writers, professional people from all fields, blue-collar workers, white-collar workers, farmers in overalls to entertainers in tuxedos. The citizens of Sunset Hills represent a pretty good cross-section of America.
National Bicentennial Commission
With the approach of Americas 200th birthday, the National Bicentennial Commission urged cities to form their own commissions to plan celebrations to honor the county. To become an official bicentennial city a committee had to formulate plans and carry out projects honoring the country's past, present, and future as it related to your own community. Mayor Arthur DeGrand appointed Martin Zschiegner as Chairman of the Sunset Hills Commission. A contest for a logo design was held in February; 9 winners were named in various categories.
A search for Liberty Trees was held throughout the county. Any tree 200 years or older was honored. Those trees submitted for consideration in Sunset Hills were studied by a committee and the Conservation Agent of St. Louis County. They determined that the oldest tree was a white oak on the property of Mr. and Mrs. William Seebold, 12935 West Watson Road. This tree is almost the oldest in all of St. Louis County and is at least 300 years old. Mr. and Mrs. Gene Ramsey, 9 Roosevelt Drive have a 250-year-old white oak in the front yard. Directly across the street on Roosevelt is a 200-year old black oak on the Robert Nagel property. Mr. and Mrs. L.N. Gary, 10253 Richview, have a 200-year-old white oak. It is quite possible that there are other old trees but these were registered with the committee.
This booklet is a project honoring the past; our new park represents not only the present but the future. Scotch Pines were distributed to residents for planting as future Liberty Trees; all together there were 16 projects to be carried out by the commission. The main project was to honor the present by celebrating with a gala festival. Nancy Benson was the chairman of this affair, which included a parade, food, entertainment, display booths, arts and crafts, shows, games, contests, and ending with a beautiful fireworks display. This event was held in Laumeier County Park, Rott Road and Geyer Road, Sunset Hills. The participation and enthusiasm was so great that it is hoped to make a festival an annual affair.
To the Future
Now we look to the future of Sunset Hills. Our little community is one of those special villages known as suburbia, most of its inhabitants come from somewhere else within the vast St. Louis metropolitan area to join those farmers and businessmen long established here. Together we work to create a pocket community, keeping our heritage with all the other communities, which compose the large area of St. Louis, County.
Rott School has been the community center for 90 years. Now we move ahead to include a much larger section of Sunset Hills students in Watson School. This in turn is only part of our Lindbergh School District, one of the finest in the county.
The city has no desire to become a great metropolis but we do encourage new businesses. In 1976, there seems to be a good balance of businesses and residences. It is our hope that in the coming years of growth new generations will have an even deeper, more meaningful sense of community, remembering and respecting the old while developing the new. Sunset Hills has many resources and the greatest of these is... its people.