HISTORY OF THE CITY OF BELLA VILLA 

INCORPORATION  PETITION  OF  BELLA  VILLA  IS  FILED !

A petition signed by 251 persons seeking the incorporation of a community in Lemay Township as a fourth class city to be known as Bella Villa was submitted to the St. Louis County Court last Wednesday. According to census enumerators, the population of the contemplated incorporated area would be 510. Bella Villa generally is bounded by Gravois Creek on the North , Zeiss Avenue on the east, Hoffineister on the south, and Avenue H on the west. —Naborhood Link News, May 7, 1947.

Bella Villa was incorporated on the 26th day of May 1947 as a fourth class city, with the court appointed officers of Mayor Oscar J. Keller, Marshall Thomas Merli, Collector LaVern Shults, and Aldermen Wagner and Daily in Ward 1, Aldermen Evens and Wilhelms in Ward 2, Aldermen M. Fox and Groening in Ward 3. The first meeting was called to order my Mayor Keller on June 2nd, 1947, at 8:14 pm at his home, 711 Bella Villa Drive.

In December of 1947 the City of Bayless Heights just to the north of Bella Villa became incorporated. The purpose apparently was to prevent annexation of the area by the newly incorporated Bella Villa. Bayless Heights was later disincorporated. — Historic Lemay by Vernon G. Shertel.

The sewer inlet at the corner of Avenue C and Avenue H was collapsing and the sanitary sewage was backing into a sinkhole along with accumulating storm water. The major thrust for the incorporation by the Bella Villa Improvement Association was to improve the current storm water system either by repairing the current system and adding a treatment plant and storm water system, or by joining either  St. Louis City or Lemay Sewer Districts. Either solution would require a bond issue. Meetings were scheduled with representatives of both the St. Louis City and Lemay Sanitary Sewer districts to discuss the probability and cost of .connecting to a Bella Villa trunk line to either of those sewers. Lemay Sewer district allowed Bella Villa sewers to be connected to the Lemay Sewers at a cost of $9,240.00 for the 157 homes in Bella Villa at that time, with the understanding of an additional charge of $60.00 per home connection fee for future connections.

The first election for city officials was held April 6, 1948. Harry Wilde was elected Marshall, Alderman Osborn replaced Alderman Daily in Ward 1, Alderman Eckley replaced Alserman Wilhelms in Ward 2. The Mayor and Aldermen Wagner, Evens, Fox, and Groening remained in Ofice.

An election August 23rd, 1949 failed to get the two thirds majority votes necessary for a $ 50,000.00 bond issue for the sewer improvements. The proposition passed at an election on November 29, 1949 and the Bella Villa District was disincorporated.

During the first few years, many bills were introduced, passed, and enacted into ordinances. These ordinances levied tax rates, determined the services to be offered including the collection of solid waste, quality of housing, and zoning. Committees were established for Ways and Means, Streets and Sewers, Police, Fire, Public Safety, and later Health, and Building. Commissioners were appointed. In 1951 Board President Alderman Howard J. Evans assumed the duties of Mayor Keller during the illness and death of Mayor Keller and he remained in that office until Harry W. Groening was elected Mayor in the April election.

In April of 1955, Edward and Eva Lieber filed a petition to rezone an area 150 feet by 225 feet on the Southwest corner of Avenue H and Bayless. The petition was rejected. The action was appealed to the Board of Adjustment with the same result. A request by Mr. And Mrs. Kasselbaum for a license for a restaurant and tavern at 3971 Bayless was approved after proper petitions and legal requirements were met. The following year the license was issued to Mrs. Ruby Kramer. Later a request for renting rooms on the second floor at that address was approved.

On May 24th, 1955 a Foursquare Revival tent was erected on the Southwest corner of Avenue H and Bayless. A permit for services from May through August had been denied as not in compliance with Ordinance 20. The tent was dismantled and moved in early June. September 1955 brought litigation against the Board of Adjustments and the City on behalf of the Lieber rezoning rejection. The court ruled in favor of the City in December 1956 and an appeal was filed by Mr. Lieber's attorney, In February 1957 the court ruled against accepting the appeal.

In January 1956 the Metropolitan Sewer District began operation and the maintenance of Bella Villa sewers were turned over to the district. A resolution was adopted for the Bella Villa Police Chief to apply to the St.Louis County Police Commission to deputize the Bella Villa Police Department (BVPD). In 1958 Bella Villa joined a partisan organization with several other South County associations and cities including Indian Hills, Flori Hills, Marion Heights, Spring Acres and Nini Manor for civic improvement. The organization was to be called the "Ozark Communities Council".

In late 1959 or early 1960 an outside toilet at the Southeast corner of Ruprecht and Avenue C was brought to the attention of the Mayor and Board of Aldermen. The property owner was instructed to comply with Ordinance 19.2. Failing to comply, a real estate company purchased the property, promising to remove the toilet and build two new houses on the property. Treasurer Quintin Keller was recognized upon his appointment as comptroller of Lemay Bank, now Midwest Bank Center in January 1952.

1962 brought the appointment of Richard Behnke as Deputy Marshall. The Ordinances were copied, bound into a book at an expense of $10.00 per book. Mr. Norwood was appointed Chief of Police in June 1963 and Mr. Art Lang succeeded Mr. Keller as treasurer.

In Mayor Groenings administration, the Board of Aldermen reached an agreement with the owner of the hardware store building at 3993 Bayless to add an adjoining building at 3993 Bayless to be leased to Bella Villa for a City Hall. The new City Hall was dedicated in October 1963. At that time it was used only for board meetings, court, and police administration. Mayor Appel preferred to keep city files and records in his home and had the city phone ring in his house.The aldermen and commissioners also kept their records in their homes.

In March 1964 a motion was introduced and carried to purchase a 1959 two door six cylinder Chevrolet Belair for $900.00 to be used as a police vehicle. Prior to that purchase police personnel had been using their own personal autos for police duty. At the April meeting in 1964 Mayor Groening presented the gavel to the newly elected Mayor Appel.  Bella Villa joined with neighboring residential areas in resisting a trash transfer station between the railroad tracks and Union Avenue on the south side of Bayless Avenue. The City was also successful in rejecting a commercial venture on the bank of Gravois Creek and identifying 100 year and 500 year flood lines.

In 1978 Alderman Don Fox was instrumental in acquiring Community Block Grant funds to purchase three parcels of property adjoining Gravois Creek to create a natural area park. The primary purpose was to preclude any future attempts for commercial development in the flood plane. Ordinances have been enacted and revised as required by federal statutes to stay in compliance with flood plane insurance regulations and the Fair Housing and Employment codes in order go obtain additional federal block grant funds. Block grant funds have been utilized primarily for storm sewer improvement, sidewalk, and curbing projects since that time.

After Mayor Barbara Savalick was elected in April 1988, all city, commissioner, aldermanic, and court records were moved to city hall. A computer was purchased and city hall was staffed four days per week. The city/court clerk was sent to training seminars to learn how city books were to be kept and how the municipal court was to be run according to state statutes. In 1992 Mayor Savalick and the Board of Aldermen dedicated the park as the Apple Memorial Park in memory of Mayor Appel, commemorating his 24 year tenure.

The 1993 flood forced Bella Villa to evacuate for five days. Although none of the houses flooded, the Phillips Petroleum tanks in River Des Peres near the Mississippi River floated off their anchors and posed a potential deadly threat to the immediate South County area. The part time BVPD was placed on extended duty, the computer was moved to a safer location and with a cell phone city business was minimally maintained.

St. Louis County along with Missouri Department of Natural Resources (DNR) started charging extra tipping fees for dumping solid waste in land fills to enable the County to provide grants to municipalities to keep hazardous wastes out of land fills. Tammie Keadle wrote a grant for Bella Villa and received enough money to have Project "Healthy Options for Missouri Environment (HOME) for Bella Villa. The collection was done in the Appel Memorial Park in October 1993.

Art Gordon was elected mayor in 1996. Mayor Gordon and the Board of Aldermen negotiated for and purchased an abandoned house to build a new City Hall. The adjacent empty lot was also purchased for a park and playground, to be named the Elvira Noll Park for the former owner who reduced the price of the lot for the city. The new building was finished and ready for occupancy in 2001. In January 2002 Mayor Gordon moved out of the city. Alderman Homan, president of the board, assumed the duties of Acting Mayor until the next election in April 2002. Mayor John Cowie was elected mayor in 2002 but resigned in 2003. Alderman Grey was appointed by the Board to finish the two year term, then was elected mayor in April 2003. Mayor Grey has expanded the part time BVPD to a full time police force;  has provided City Hall with internet service and installed a computer for resident use. Mayor Grey served 2003 - 2008.  Bill Taylor served briefly after his election in 2008.  Joanne Yates took over as interim Mayor from 2008-2009. Barb Savalick was elected and served 2009-2010.  Joanne Yates was elected in 2010 and served through 2016. 

Aldermen who have served the City, but not necessarily in the correct order: Aldermen E. Wagner, R. Daily, H. Evens, H. Wilhelms, M. Fox, H. Groening, R. Osborn, F. Minnerode, Jr., F. Roshel, E.O. Schmidt, Wm Schmidt, Q. Keller, E.G. Hartman, Jr., R.L. Fitts, H. Boehr, J. Mehan, J. Stark, H. Scharlott, J. Kwitzky, E. Plaplanus, K. Grace, R.I. Goray, J. Jorgovan, C. Stebe, H. Story, G. Appel, Eckley, W.A. Norwood, Duenwald, Kaufman, M. Besand, D. Jordan, Don Artz, Don Fox, J. Schremp, Bill Reed, G. Reis, Paul Mitchell, Barbara Savalick, John Shults, Ann Hawk, Dennie Feltman, Chuck Stephens, Ella Mayer, Tammy Hatchard, Rich Homan, Jason Peery, Tammy Keadle, Tom Yates, Ruth Ann Frank, Joanne Yates, Steve Grey, Alice Lotspeich, Donna Puleo


     Many thanks to:   Barbara Savalick, 
   for compiling the History of Bella Villa
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