COLUMBIA — Robin Martin has heard developers say one thing and build another before.
She’s also seen poorly managed properties spring up around her Lake of the Woods subdivision in East Columbia. That’s why she’s suspicious about the proposed 271-acre development planned around Richland Road and the future extension of Rolling Hills Road.
“We’re just telling you why we’re skeptical because we’ve already been fooled once,” she said at a public information meeting for the proposed development Tuesday night in City Hall.
It wasn’t the first time nearby residents had heard plans for the area. One of the land’s owners, developer David Atkins, submitted the plans for city zoning and annexation at the end of 2008, but subsequently withdrew them in April to address concerns raised by the Planning and Zoning Commission and complete a development agreement with the city. The public information meeting Tuesday night addressed changes to the plans and also updated the nearby residents on the progress of the process.
The proposed development area borders the south of Richland Road and also overlays the area through which the city will be extending Rolling Hills Road to Grace Lane on the eastern edge of the city limits. The land is pending voluntary annexation to the city on the condition that it receives the requested zoning. It is also directly in the path of the area identified for the future Stadium Boulevard extension to Interstate 70.
Atkins and his partners want about 107 acres of planned commercial zoning and the remaining 164 acres to be planned residential zoning. Nearby homeowners have howled in the past about the effect a development of this size would have on an already overburdened road network in the area. Their tune hasn’t changed much.
“What we’re trying to prevent is another Scott Boulevard issue,” said Tony Black, the president of the Lake of the Woods Neighborhood association.
Since the city last considered plans for the project, one of the tracts that would be zoned commercial has been shrunk to allow more space between the intersection of Rolling Hills and Richland roads and the access to stores built nearby. But more importantly, an initial draft of a development agreement has been completed. The developer’s attorney, Robert Hollis, said he expects it to be agreed upon with few changes.
The agreement basically requires the project to hold until there are sufficient roads to accommodate additional development in the area, Hollis said.
“Until Stadium Boulevard is built through the site, the large (commercial) portion will not be developed,” he said. “It wouldn’t make sense to do otherwise. The property would not be marketable.”
Development Services Manager Patrick Zenner, who conducted the meeting, said the agreement should make sure the developer “won’t bite off more than he can chew” and lead to incremental development on the site.
But residents in the area are already unsatisfied with the part of the area’s road performance. Martin said that Grace Lane, the road that Rolling Hills will be connected to, is already too heavily traveled.
“We have great concern about this much stuff going in and the infrastructure being overwhelmed,” she said.
Black said he felt a little better after the night’s meeting, especially knowing the development will be planned and governed by a written document.
“If they got it all down in writing, here’s what we’ll do, here’s what we won’t do, I’ll feel a lot better,” he said. “A lot of the older developments (in the area) were done on a handshake and didn’t turn out the way they were supposed to.”
Zenner said the proposed zoning would lead to a more unified future development.
“Left to its own devices, acreage of this size over time would be chopped up and parceled out and the ability for comprehensive planning would be lost,” he said.
The Planning and Zoning Commission will review the plans next.