St. Louis County parkland to be sold for cemetery expansion
CLAYTON, Mo. (AP) — St. Louis County is preparing to sell parkland for the expansion of the Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery, which is expected to run out of space in the next few years.
The County Council voted unanimously on Tuesday to advance a bill that would authorize the sale of 33.6 acres (13.6 hectares) of the Sylvan Springs Park to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs for $2.4 million, The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported. Final approval is expected next week.
The cemetery will run out of burial plots between 2021 and 2027, officials said. The extra acreage would give the cemetery an additional 20 years of capacity, according to a VA environmental assessment.
“It’s unfortunate that we need this land, but it is very well needed by a lot of people,” said Al Katzenberger, American Legion liaison to the cemetery.
The VA would lease the lower half of the park back to the county for about a decade until the space is needed for new burials.
St. Louis County Parks Director Gary Bess said funds from the land sale would be reinvested into the rest of the park.
The deal comes as county government officials have been trying to limit their authority to sell parkland by proposing a change that would require a public vote before any such transaction. But members of the St. Louis County Council said they had already committed to the Sylvan Springs Park deal in 2015.
An environmental law firm in 2015 filed a lawsuit on behalf of county residents to block the sale. But the St. Louis County Circuit Court and the state court of appeals ruled that the county had the authority to sell the property.
Information from: St. Louis Post-Dispatch, http://www.stltoday.com