COLUMBIA — After a second public hearing and heated debate, the City Council voted 4-3 on Monday night to deny a request by a Crosscreek Center developer, Stadium 63 Properties, to put a car dealership on the property.
But even though council members didn’t agree on the Crosscreek Center proposal, they all expressed dissatisfaction with how the process of approving developments is handled. The council considered sending the proposal back to the Planning and Zoning Commission after listening to two and a half hours of public comment, but the motion failed.
Mayor Darwin Hindman: Yes Almeta Crayton, First Ward: No Chris Janku, Second Ward: Yes Karl Skala, Third Ward: No Jerry Wade, Fourth Ward: No Laura Nauser, Fifth Ward: Yes Barbara Hoppe, Sixth Ward: No
“Something is dramatically wrong with the way the city approaches planning and zoning,” said Fourth Ward Councilman Jerry Wade, who voted against the proposal. “Contention and community antagonism has been increased. I do not believe I was elected to micromanage projects.”
The Crosscreek Center amendments have been under consideration since a December Planning Commission meeting. The commission did recommend that the council approve rezoning of the 5-acre tract at U.S. 63 and Stadium Boulevard for commercial use. But, after tabling the proposal once, the commission did not recommend Stadium 63 Properties be allowed to build a car lot.
The council tabled the amended proposal after a five-hour public hearing at its Feb. 4 meeting.
Stadium 63 Properties made concessions to neighborhood associations before the February council meeting. They amended their proposal, promising that only a new car lot would be allowed on the property, and they restricted the height of signs within the development and reduced the total size of the development by 130,000 square feet, on the condition that a car lot be allowed. In response to residents’ concerns, the developers made further concessions Monday morning, agreeing to include pylon signs instead of pole signs.
“Since that initial hearing before Planning and Zoning began in December up to today’s date, we have morphed every time we met,” said Bruce Beckett, the lawyer representing Stadium 63 properties.
But the concessions didn’t satisfy residents.
Jim Muench, chairman of the Shepherd Boulevard Neighborhood Association, spoke out against the developers. He criticized the developers’ relationship with the neighborhoods as well as the caliber of the development design.
“All the neighbors want is a good development for that land, and this is not it,” Muench said. “I am asking you on behalf of the community to send them back to the drawing board.”
In response to Muench’s speech, Fifth Ward Councilwoman Laura Nauser, who voted in favor of the proposal, made the point that his neighborhood association originally voted that it objected to a used car lot but would support a new car lot. She said that even though the statement of intent was revised to include only a new car lot, the neighborhood association was still crying out against the developer.
“To say no one has worked with you is quite disingenuous,” Nauser said.
Sixth Ward Councilwoman Barbara Hoppe, who voted against the proposal, attended a recent neighborhood association meeting to observe residents’ discussion with developers. The proposed Crosscreek Center would be in her ward. She spoke about the lack of cooperation.
“I was very shocked when I attended that meeting and an elderly man asked a question, a pointed question, and he was told to shut up,” Hoppe said.
During the public hearing, residents said their main unaddressed concern was architectural unity. They wanted the development to have a consistent design and use of building materials.
Nauser said in her comments that the issue was really one of land use, and architectural concerns were beyond the scope of the hearing. Mayor Darwin Hindman, who voted in favor of the proposal, added that the council has not adopted any rules with regard to architectural integrity.
Nauser said, “To apply architectural control because it is our whim today is not fair.”
Council members all agreed that the process of zoning land and approving developments was broken.
“I think the whole process is wrong,” Hoppe said. “It will speak to the rest of the neighborhood associations that this is what they can expect, too.”
She asked that developers work hand-in-hand with neighborhoods in the future. The negotiations should also be ongoing, Hoppe said, so that developers return to residents if there are any changes from the initial agreements.