COLUMBIA — Despite concerns that installation of a stop light would slow traffic flow on Grindstone Parkway, over 20 acres of property on the road have been rezoned from agricultural to commercial land.
The Red Oak Investment Company’s plans to install the traffic light on a proposed intersection opposite to Grindstone Plaza Drive have drawn concern for several months from both the Columbia City Council and the Planning and Zoning Commission. Those plans have been tied to the rezoning request, which has never been opposed. After a debate Monday night about finer details of the consequences of installing the light and intersection, the council approved the request to rezone the property.
Not wanting to slow down while driving on Grindstone is not reason enough to deny the request, said Craig Van Matre, the legal representative of THF Red Oaks.*
“If you deny this because of a stoplight, you will be wasting a valuable resource,” said Van Matre, who also represents THF Grindstone Plaza, the shopping center that includes Walmart and several other stores and restaurants.
Red Oaks intends to sell the property for commercial use, he said. Development at that location could benefit the city economically, he said.
One of the points discussed during the public hearing and by the council was how the new intersection could affect the flow of traffic.*
John Glascock, Public Works director*, said the option to turn left could cause risky weaving through lanes.
David Brodsky, a member of the Planning and Zoning Commission, spoke as a citizen and voiced concern for adding further impediments on one of Columbia’s busier streets.
“As the east section of town develops on the other side of 63, the west side will have to travel east across town,” Brodsky said. “I feel clogging up any of these roadways is harmful to the economic viability of the community.”
Sixth Ward Councilwoman Barbara Hoppe also questioned changing the flow of traffic. She said that her research of council meetings since 2003 didn’t seem to support installing an intersection at the proposed location.
“All my reading of what happened previously is that the plan was to keep the traffic moving on (Grindstone),” Hoppe said.
After about half an hour of discussion, Mayor Bob McDavid pointed out that both council and planning and zoning agreed that the land was best used commercially.
"If we reject this, we are allowing planning and zoning to become traffic engineers," McDavid said. Rejecting the plan based on disagreement on traffic flow around the intersection, he said, would have "unintended consequences."
In March, the Planning and Zoning Commission voted 7-2 to not recommend the rezoning application for the 25.3 acre property. The commission agreed rezoning for commercial use was appropriate, but concern over the traffic light overshadowed approval.
The council subsequently tabled the issue on April 7 at the request of Red Oak Investment Company.
The council approved the rezoning Monday by a 5-1 vote. Hoppe dissented; First Ward Councilman Paul Sturtz was not at the meeting.