COLUMBIA — Columbia’s Planning and Zoning Commission recommended approval Thursday night for the proposed Silver Oak Senior Living Center, an 11-acre development plan that prompted concerns about the loss of forest land.
SOCH LC, an Oklahoma-based development company, plans to build four buildings on Berrywood Drive, just east of Portland Street in east Columbia. The plan will total 275,300 square feet and include one independent living facility, one assisted living facility and two medical office buildings.
The property, which is 95 percent forest, was zoned for residential use. The commission voted to approve rezoning for planned office district zoning.
Several residents of the nearby neighborhoods opposed the plan, voicing concerns that they don’t want to see the trees disappear. One showed a six-minute picture slide show of the forest with classical music as a background.
Her neighbor, Christine Hake, voiced similar concern over the trees.
“My pockets aren’t deep enough to buy the property otherwise I would,” she said. She said she is also concerned about lighting and noise from the facilities.
The proposed plan includes preserving 2.7 acres of the trees, or just over a quarter of the forest.
Allen Hahn, chair of the Woodridge Neighborhood Association, said he reluctantly supported the proposal. He said the association had worked with the developers to work out compromises.
“The feeling of the board was that this was the best thing we could expect out of this,” he said. “We did make suggestions and many of the suggestions were taken.”
The commission added seven recommendations before voting unanimously to recommend approval of the plan to City Council. Those additions include planting 35 Eastern Red Oak trees and limiting the buildings to one story where they face the residential district. Ann Peters, a member of the commission, also requested a local contact for the neighborhoods during construction in case they have any concerns. Peters abstained from voting, because she lives in the neighborhood.
Ron Shy, a local civil engineer, said he would serve as a liaison between the neighborhood associations and the architect.
“We’re going to be present during the construction process,” he said.
Members of the commission applauded the planners on their involvement with the nearby neighborhoods. They also expressed sympathy with those opposed to the plan over losing the trees.
“I hate losing any forest inside the city,” commission member Vicky Curby said.
Commission member Glenn Rice cautioned against voting for the plan just because the possibility of later plans being less well-received.
“We tend to approve something because it could be worse,” he said. “I’m trying to weight this on its own merits.”