City Council tables proposal to annex near Richland Road

Wednesday, November 4, 2009 | 12:01 a.m. CST; updated 9:30 a.m. CST, Tuesday, December 8, 2009

COLUMBIA — Competing philosophies for the future development of land surrounding Columbia were on display Monday night as the City Council voted to table a proposal for annexation of 271 acres east of the city.

After more than a year of back and forth between developers and city staff, the council voted 6-1 to hold off on a proposal that would bring the Richland Road development into the city under commercial and residential zoning. The property in question is east of Highway 63, south of Interstate 70 and north of East Broadway and is currently rural and undeveloped.

The property's owners are expecting the area will develop substantially over the next 10 to 15 years pending the eventual extension of Stadium Boulevard. The proposed expressway would bisect the west side of the Richland property and is in the early stages of planning.

First Ward Councilman Paul Sturtz argued against the plan's approval Monday night. He said it involves too large an area and too much commercial use to consider at this point. He compared the proposal's commercial component of 360,000 square feet to the Walmart and Kohl's complex on Grindstone Avenue, which Sturtz estimated at 350,000 square feet.

"This new development would have more retail than that, plus another development next to it that would have office and residential," he said Tuesday. "And that's just on one tract."

Sturtz and Third Ward Councilman Karl Skala both called for the completion of the East Columbia Area Plan before the property is annexed and rezoned.

"I have a lot more confidence in a broader group of people being involved in that process," Sturtz said.

Work on the East Columbia Area Plan (ECAP), which would serve as a guide for planning and development east of Columbia, is in its early stages. The first meeting — a joint work session of the Columbia and Boone County planning and zoning commissions — is scheduled for Nov. 17. Council members Monday estimated the document would be completed sometime around April 2010.

Sturtz said he prefers to let city staff and the ECAP group investigate costs and benefits rather than rely on developers to determine how the area will play out.

"A developer-led strategy is one that generally results in unexpected expenses for the city," he said. "We're talking about something that will involve tens of millions of dollars of taxpayers money in the end."

Richland Road is a two-lane road and the property's main point of access. Substantial commercial development in the area likely would require the expansion and upgrade of roads in the area.

Citing the likelihood of development around the Stadium Boulevard extension, Sturtz said the developer's proposal amounted to land speculation. "It's a total bonanza," he said. "If Stadium goes by your land, the value could go up tenfold."

Tony Black, of the Lake of the Woods Neighborhood Association, spoke against the proposal, saying the density is simply too much, both for the existing roads and for the North Fork of the Grindstone Creek. He also encouraged the council to be sensitive to the neighbors' desires and to hold off on approving a plan until the exact location of the Stadium extension is determined.

"We understand that the developer is in the business to make money, but we're not there to make money," Black said. "We're there to live."

Mayor Darwin Hindman and council members Laura Nauser of the Fifth Ward and Jason Thornhill of the Second Ward argued in favor of the plan. On Tuesday, Thornhill said he thinks the developers have done a good job of involving interested parties in the proposal.

"I felt like this was the way we had decided we want developers to approach projects — to gather multiple sources of input from the neighborhood, the commission and the council," Thornhill said.

Asked if he thought the Richland proposal amounts to speculation, Thornhill said developers speculate all the time.

"Most of the places you enjoy going to ... there's a pretty good chance that was speculative property to begin with," he said. "Real estate, by virtue, is speculative."

Planning and Zoning commissioners have twice recommended that the council reject the plan, both times citing the density and lack of infrastructure as primary concerns.

Attorney Robert Hollis represents the developers, a group led by David Atkins. Citing reductions in the proposed density of commercial and residential zoning, Hollis said his client has made substantial concessions to the city and to neighbors.

"Its frustrating to hear anyone say that the developer didn't do enough to involve interested parties," he said.

Toward the end of Monday night's lengthy council discussion, members seemed unclear as to whether the proposal would be approved. Hollis said he would prefer the council table the proposal rather than reject it outright. Had the proposal been rejected, developers would have had to wait 12 months before they could ask the council again for consideration.

Hollis said his client could withdraw the proposal at any time.

"The fact that this was tabled by the council doesn't bind my client in any way as far as what they could do," he said. "They could develop under current county zoning or sell a portion of the property."

He said he hoped it wouldn't come to that, but his client has yet to decide. "I hope we can avoid the subdividing of the property prior to the end of the four months."

In the end, the council voted 6-1 to table the proposal until April. Hindman said the East Columbia Area Plan likely would be farther along by that point and the two documents could be compared. Nauser was the only council member to vote against tabling.




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Patrick Sweet November 4, 2009 | 11:01 a.m.

If this development does finally go through, they should call it "Table Mesa." That seems appropriate.

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