COLUMBIA — A request to rezone 22.5 acres at Bethel Street and Nifong Boulevard to allow construction of senior apartments and a mix of businesses won the approval of City Council on Monday night.
The rezoning, which passed unanimously, was requested by developer Jeffery Smith, who plans to develop the vacant land now zoned for residential use into 93 senior apartments. In the past, student apartment developers have approached Smith about buying and developing the property, his attorney, Dan Simon, said at an Aug. 4 Planning and Zoning Commission meeting.
Those developers would've been able to build 311 student apartments on the land without further city approval, Simon said Monday, citing the property's previous zoning.
The land previously was zoned for office, single-family, two-family and medium-density residential use.
Smith has developed other senior apartment complexes in Columbia.
The other section of the property, now zoned for commercial use, has three different areas — named Area A, Area B and Area C — with separate restrictions about what can be operated in each area. Most of these business restrictions are in place closest to nearby neighborhoods.
Under an agreement with the city, the developers would be responsible for adding two streets and a traffic signal at their own expense to help address traffic flow, Simon said. The city would have to pay for an underground stormwater detention built by the developer.
The developer must also spend an estimated $1.5 million to build a box culvert along Nifong Boulevard, which would help with stormwater runoff and make it possible to widen the street in the future.
An amendment was also approved that would delay building the streets and traffic signal until Area C's development plan is approved or until four years pass. But if a required traffic study states these projects are necessary before that time is up, the streets and traffic signal would have to be built. The amendment would also delay the construction of one of the property's eight planned stormwater detention facilities.
"Development Area C may well be the first area to be developed." Simon said. He mentioned that Smith is already in talks with a possible tenant.
Fifth Ward Councilwoman Helen Anthony initially opposed the amendment because it was proposed after public meetings were held with nearby residents, such as those of Bedford Walk.
Bedford Walk residents submitted a petition to the city with the signatures of 148 people who oppose the rezoning. The residents have said they worry primarily about increased stormwater runoff and traffic.
Karen Smith, a Bedford Walk resident, said residents in her subdivision had known the corner would develop eventually and had hoped it would be a development similar to Smith's previous development at Bethel Ridge.
Anthony strongly opposed the amendment until the four-year time limit was added. She, and the rest of the council, then approved the amendment.