Columbia City Council votes against industrial zoning of Bowling Street property

Monday, May 17, 2010 | 9:27 p.m. CDT

COLUMBIA — History trumped development at Monday's City Council meeting. In a 3-4 decision, the Columbia City Council voted against changing the zoning of a 23-acre property on Bowling Street from residential to industrial.

The property is located near Business Loop 70 and Bowling Street at 1619 and 1717 Mores Blvd., immediately east of the Municipal Power Plant.

Despite applying for industrial zoning, the owner hasn't proposed any uses for the property, stating "the rezoning request is to generally attain the highest and best use for the property," according to the minutes of the Aug. 20 Planning and Zoning Commission meeting. The owners' goal was to keep zoning consistent between the property and its neighbors.

"It is not the right of each of us to rezone to the highest use possible," First Ward Councilman Paul Sturtz argued during the vote.

Prior to the council's vote, Sharon Lynch argued on behalf of Landmark Bank, a 50 percent owner of the land, that rezoning would be beneficial for the property.

"Essentially, what we're trying to do is protect the property," Lynch said.

The current residents are legitimate heirs of the property, and as such, they should be able to have the property rezoned, Lynch said.

The Columbia Historic Preservation Commission protested the zoning change, stating that the houses standing on the property are important to Columbia. The property was first owned by Elawson C. More, who farmed the 400 acres. When More left Columbia to practice law, the property was divided into three parts. The part of the property west of Bowling Street would become the City Power Plant in 1904. Columbia businessman C.B. Rollins bought land to the east of the road.

Charles B. Bowling, the founder of Exchange National Bank, which is now Landmark Bank, bought the house and the land around it, according to a report the commission submitted to the City Council.

"It is a complicated parcel of property as old as Columbia," according to the report. "No other property is as important to Columbia's past or to its future."

At Monday's meeting, Historic Preservation Commission Chairman Brian Treece argued the property meant more than its current zoning.

"I want to point out the residential element of this property is really a small portion of its historical value," Treece said during his presentation.

Two houses sit on the property, one built in 1908 and the other in 1913, according to a report from city staff. The Bowlings' house on the land burned in February 1913. That fire led the council at the time to improve its firefighting equipment and services, the report stated.

"The property represents the final link in a chain of property ownership, community leadership and historical relevance ...," the report stated.

The other owners are the Juliet Bowling Napier Trust and the Laura Rollins Napier Trust, both with 25 percent each. The Boone County Commission is named as a residuary beneficiary, according to a letter from Landmark Bank to Boone County Presiding Commissioner Ken Pearson.

In a letter to Mayor Bob McDavid, Pearson stated the commission is a contingent beneficiary, meaning the commission would become the beneficiary if the primary beneficiary died or in some way was disqualified.

The Bowling Street land is zoned as R-1, meaning it was "intended to promote and preserve urban one-family residential development. The principal land use is a one-family dwelling. Some public recreational uses, religious facilities, educational facilities, and uses incidental or accessory to dwellings are included," according to the city's website.

The owners requested the land be changed to M-1 zoning, making it a general industrial area. In M-1 zoning, the land "is intended to allow a wide range of industrial and associated uses," according to the city's website.

The Planning and Zoning Commission supported the rezoning in a 6-0 vote in August, according to minutes from the commission's Aug. 20 meeting.

The Bowling Street property is surrounded by industrial lands. The power plant sits immediately to the west of the property and other industrial areas surround the property on Paris Road and Business Loop 70. The Department of Transportation is also planning an Interstate 70 interchange that will cross over onto the Bowling Street property, according to the city staff's report.

McDavid said he would have been more in favor of the rezoning request if the applicant were threatened by a MoDOT takeover, but because of financial constraints, he doesn't think MoDOT will be pursuing the property in the near future.

"I am generally very sensitive to an owner's right to use his property as he best sees fit. However, I take the applicant at face value when the applicant says there is no intent to change this very beautiful piece of property. I would be very receptive to the applicant if the applicant did have a use change," McDavid said prior to voting against the rezoning request.

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