COLUMBIA — Despite the city staff's recommendation, the Planning and Zoning Commission unanimously opposed annexing 271 acres owned by Richland Road Properties LLC and East Richland Road Properties LLC on the east border of Columbia.
About 15 residents near the 271-acre swath of land waited 3 1/2 hours to voice their comments to the commission, with most raising concerns about the scale and density of the proposed zoning.
"I understand people don't like to hear the statement 'not in my backyard,' but nobody would want this in their neighborhood," said Tony Black, Lake of the Woods Neighborhood Association president.
The property is on the southern border of Richland Road and will be bordered on the east by the planned extension of Rolling Hills Road. It is also in the path of the area identified for the future extension of Stadium Boulevard to Interstate 70.
The City Council approved the $4.1 million extension of Rolling Hills Road on Monday. The Stadium Boulevard extension has not yet secured all of its funding, but the project is estimated to cost around $40 million.
The entire area is part of what the Planning Department has dubbed "advanced land use planning" in its report on the request. About 107 acres would be zoned planned commercial, and the other 164 acres would be zoned planned unit developments. All development plans must be approved by the city.
The original annexation request was submitted by Richland Road Properties LLC and East Richland Road Properties LLC, both owned in part by developer David Atkins, in November 2008. But it was tabled twice and withdrawn in April so the plans could be modified.
The new plans changed the boundaries of one of the tracts to add more access space between the Richland Road and Rolling Hills Road intersection and any stores built nearby.
In addition, the document outlining the developer's plans for the land, known as a statement of intent, has been modified to meet city staff recommendations, said Robert Hollis, the developer's attorney. Unlike the last submission, all the plats have been recommended for approval by the city staff.
Changes to the plan since April include:
- Limiting retail space in the large northwestern tract to 360,000 square feet, as well as 360,000 square feet in that tract for all other commercial uses, most likely office space;
- Changing the zoning designation to allow for light commercial uses rather than heavier commercial uses in the tract that the Rolling Hills Road extension will pass through;
- Lowering the maximum dwelling units per acre in the northeastern tract from 14 to 10;
- Allowing no more than 100 units to be developed in the southern tract until an east-west road connects the future Rolling Hills Road with Route WW, the Stadium Boulevard extension or another road built in the area;
- Dedicating 10 acres of the property to the city for use as a park;
- Conveying to the city, at market price, about 2 acres to the city for use as an emergency services facility; and
- Dedicating right of way to the city to build a trail along the north fork of Grindstone Creek.
The proposal has drawn opposition from nearby residents in the past because of concerns that the existing roads could not support the traffic increases a large-scale development would create.
The development agreement stipulates that before any development plans are approved, the developer must commission a traffic study to see what effect the proposed development would have on the nearby road system. Columbia or the state Transportation Department would require the developer to improve the roads so they can absorb any additional traffic flow before approving any development plans.
Pat Zenner, the city's development services manager, said that he hopes the intensive review and planning process the annexation request has undergone can serve as a model for future annexations in the area. There are numerous large undivided tracts of land in nearby eastern Columbia, one of the fastest-growing portions of the city, and they "lend themselves to this process," he said.
Hollis said he has heard staff refer to the planning process with the Richland Road tracts as "a model to be used in the future."
Residents still strongly opposed the annexation, with most of them citing the high density of the development, especially the potential for apartment units.
Clarence Ridenhour spoke against the annexation, saying it would promote crime, sprawl and a bad reputation for Columbia.
"The limits of good governance are breached by this proposal," he said.
The commissioners sided with the residents.
Commissioner Doug Wheeler said the density of the residential portions was the most troubling.
"I have serious reservation," he said. "We're a lot closer than we've ever been, but I guess that's what eight months does to you."
Commissioner Stephen Reichlin said he would like to see the property eventually within the city limits, but this proposal was out of line.
"This development makes me understand how the general public perceives developers," he said. "And I'm a developer."