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MFA offered compensation to neighbors who opposed Break Time proposal

Monday, April 15, 2013 | 3:50 p.m. CDT; updated 9:02 p.m. CDT, Monday, April 15, 2013

This story has been updated to include comments from one of the Sun Court residents who now supports the Break Time proposal.

COLUMBIA — A plan to build a new Break Time convenience store at Rock Quarry Road and Grindstone Parkway will go before the City Council on Monday night with more support from neighbors than it had in the fall.

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MFA Oil Co. and 8 Ball Commercial are asking the City Council to rezone the 2.05-acre property at the southwest corner of the intersection to accommodate plans for the store. Neighbors who previously opposed the plan are now supporting it after MFA representatives worked to address neighborhood concerns.

Phebe LaMar, the attorney representing MFA, said that in addition to adding sound barriers and wider road plans to the proposed development, the company has offered financial support to the owners of four homes on Sun Court that abut the site. That support is intended to address residents' concerns that the Break Time would cause their property values to drop.

LaMar said her clients have been working with the neighbors since the time they withdrew their rezoning request in the fall. In all, six of the 13 residents who previously signed a petition opposing the project are now supporting it.

One of those residents, Allison DiBlasi, said she and her husband, Marc, changed their minds about the proposal because MFA has been so willing to address the neighbors' concerns.

Commercial development on that lot is "inevitable," DiBlasi said, adding that no other developers have tried to work with neighbors the way MFA Oil has.

The specific terms of the deal the DiBlasis made with MFA aren't as important as the fact that the company offered, she said.

“That was what was important to us,” DiBlasi said. “We told them that was a concern, and so they offered to make it right.”

Documents provided to the City Council about the rezoning request include four letters that Sun Court home owners, including the DeBlasis, addressed to the council and sent to city planner Matt Lepke of the Community Development Department.

"After further consideration, we have come to a better understanding of the MFA Oil Break Time project and feel comfortable with it going forward," the DiBlasis wrote in their March 13 letter. 

The other letters are signed by Sun Court property owners Barbara Davis, Sandra Nuzzarello and Thomas and Rhonda Bassett.

LaMar said additional letters of support from neighbors also have been submitted to the council.

DiBlasi said she and some other residents hadn’t made their negotiations with MFA Oil public because they didn’t think it was significant. But now, she said, she wants the council to know the developers have been willing to work with residents in the area.

“We’ve had a feeling that corner would be commercialized, but we just didn’t know what,” DiBlasi said. “This neighborhood has been fighting stuff going in that corner for 15 years, and no one has offered to work with us and compensate us for our property loss, and probably no one else will.”

The project still faces opposition. Five Columbia residents spoke against the plan at the March 7 meeting of the Planning and Zoning Commission, expressing worries about increased traffic and changes to the ordinance that designates Rock Quarry Road as a scenic roadway.

The commission approved the request in a 5-4 vote. City staff, however, is recommending the council reject the request. Karl Skala, who voted against the proposal as a Planning and Zoning commissioner just one month ago, will now be voting on the issue as a council member.

Meanwhile, the Central Missouri Development Council is trying to drum up support for the proposal. In an email on Monday afternoon, Executive Director Don Stamper encouraged members to show up at the meeting to support the developers or to send an email to council members supporting the project.

"This request will be the first business community issue that the recently seated council will take up. There is a need for strong support, and we are writing to enlist your help," Stamper wrote.

The council's meeting begins at 7 p.m. in its chambers at the Daniel Boone City Building, 701 E. Broadway.

Supervising editor is Scott Swafford.


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