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Columbia Missourian

Planning and Zoning Commission rejects development near state park

By Chris Jasper
January 24, 2013 | 10:29 p.m. CST

*This story has been corrected to reflect that the Planning and Zoning Commission's recommendation will be referred to the Columbia City Council.

COLUMBIA — A controversial request to annex and rezone more than 35 acres of land just north of the Rock Bride Memorial park was rejected by the Columbia Planning and Zoning Commission Thursday night.

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The commission rejected the rezoning by a vote of 8-0.

The request: Crockett Engineering, on behalf of Southside Trail Estates, asked that the city annex land owned by Rob Hill and zone it for single-family residential use and for a planned unit development to accommodate 53 houses and 11 villa-style, or duplex, homes. County zoning on the property is for single-family and agricultural use.

The property: The 35.8-acre tract, which lies east of Route K and is adjacent to Rock Bridge Memorial Park, lies within the watershed of Bonne Femme Creek. There's a possibility that the karst topographical features of the state park extend onto the property, which means caves and sinkholes might lie beneath the surface.

Ken Midkiff, conservation chair of the Osage Group of the Sierra Club, has said that could be dangerous to workers and that the development could compromise the sensitive watershed. One of the goals in the 2007 Bonne Femme Watershed Plan approved by the city and county is to ensure that changes in land use don't harm water quality or increase downstream flooding or channel instability.

Comments: William Bryan, the director of Missouri State Parks, spoke out against the measure. He said that parks' most serious threat came from suburban construction.

Kevin Roberson, the president of the board for Friends of Rock Bridge Memorial State Park, also voiced his opposition to the development. He said the new homes would be the densest development next to a state park in Missouri and would take away from the experience of visitors. 

Commissioner Karl Skala voted to deny the proposal because of the possibility of building above losing streams — those that lose water as they flow downstream. He also said there should be no more than four units per acre. Even though Crockett Engineering envisioned the area for permanent housing, the buildings could become rental property, Skala said.

What comes next: The commission's recommendation will be referred to the Columbia City Council, which will have another public hearing and vote on the measure, most likely at its Feb. 18 meeting.*

Supervising editor is Scott Swafford.