COLUMBIA — It shouldn't be long before residents of Columbia Regency learn whether their mobile home park will eventually be displaced by apartments for college students. The Columbia City Council is scheduled to vote on the proposed rezoning after a public hearing Monday night.
The Planning and Zoning Commission unanimously voted on Sept. 22 to recommend the council reject the request to rezone the property. The request was submitted by Crockett Engineering Consultants on behalf of Regency of Missouri, which wants the trailer park rezoned as a planned residential development. It plans to sell the land to Aspen Heights, a company that develops student apartments.
Residents of the trailer park and Grass Roots Organizing have complained that the rezoning would displace residents of the trailer park and could leave many residents homeless. During the hour-and-a-half hearing before the Planning and Zoning Commission, residents said that many of the trailers are too old to move and that many of the residents who own trailers can't afford to move them.
Robin Acree of Grass Roots Organizing was one of the primary opponents of the rezoning at the hearing.
"You are the first line of defense for these people," Acree told the commissioners.
Arguments about the welfare of the residents seemed to resonate with many of the commissioners, but Ann Peters was the only one who said her vote against the rezoning was based on the health, safety and welfare of trailer park tenants.
City Counselor Fred Boeckmann said that when voting on rezoning, commissioners and council members have discretion. He said zoning ordinances are "general," but commissioners should base their decision on the “reasonability” of the current and proposed land uses.
The other commissioners based their decision not to recommend the rezoning on the density of the proposed development and the traffic it would create.
Crockett Engineering asked for zoning to allow up to 9.5 dwellings per acre but development plans call for 8.5 dwellings per acre.
The proposed density is less than that of several student apartment complexes in south Columbia. Using statistics on acreage and numbers of apartments provided by Boone County Assessor Tom Schauwecker, the Missourian calculated the following densities for complexes in the area:
- The Reserve at Columbia: 11.23 units per acre
- Campus Lodge: 8.488 units per acre
- Grindstone Canyon: 16.471 units per acre
- Copper Beech: 11.935 units per acre
- Campus View Apartments: 8.848 units per acre
- The Cottages of Columbia: 6.419 units per acre
- Gateway of Columbia: 17.647 units per acre
- Log Hill Run: 8.359units per acre
The assessor’s office was unable to provide information on The Grove, a new apartment complex, because it will not enter the books until next year. A previous Missourian report listed The Grove as having 632 bedrooms.
Density, however, isn’t the only relevant statistic. Density counts the number of apartments, not the number of bedrooms. For example, The Reserve at Columbia apartment complex has a higher density than Campus Lodge, but Campus Lodge can house 92 more people than The Reserve.
As planned, Aspen Heights would have 936 bedrooms, 168 more than Campus Lodge.
The high population despite relatively low density has a significant impact on traffic. Many planning commissioners said at the Sept. 22 meeting that they had not seen the traffic study done in conjunction with the Aspen Heights proposal. It can be found in the staff report to the Planning and Zoning Commission.
The traffic study predicts 0.30 trips per bed during the highest hour of traffic in the morning and 0.032 trips per bed during the highest hour of traffic in the evening. With 936 beds, that's 280 trips in the morning hour and 293 trips in the evening hour.
The study is largely based on traffic counts from The Cottages of Columbia and extrapolates to fit the proposed population of Aspen Heights. A manager at The Cottages of Columbia has told the Missourian the complex has 515 bedrooms. The traffic report, however, says it has 525. The Cottages of Columbia also has a contract with Columbia Transit to provide free bus rides during the day for residents through spring 2013. Night buses do not run to The Cottages of Columbia.
It's doubtful Aspen Heights would get similar bus service for free. The council in September turned down two similar contracts and another that called for night service to students at several complexes.
Since the zoning hearing, Grass Roots Organizing has continued to lobby against the rezoning. The group has arranged for Fifth Ward Councilwoman Helen Anthony and Sixth Ward Councilwoman Barbara Hoppe to tour the trailer park on Thursday evening and meet families who live there.
The council's meeting begins at 7 p.m. Monday in its chambers in the Daniel Boone City Building.