COLUMBIA — The Columbia Planning and Zoning Commission voted unanimously to recommend the City Council approve a zoning request for a controversial housing development plan north of Rock Bridge Memorial State Park.
Crockett Engineering, on behalf of Southside Trail Estates, submitted an annexation and zoning request for a housing development that would consist of 57 lots and one common lot and support a total of 65 residential units.
The requested rezoning would allow for two residential units per acre, making more dense development possible. The land is currently under county zoning designations, which allow for one lot per 7,000 square feet of land area in the part of the property along Route K and one lot per 10 acres in the rest of the land area.
Developers originally proposed a request in October 2012. Previous plans featured 76 lots and three common lots, for a total of 87 housing units. At its Jan. 24 meeting, the commission voted unanimously to reject the original plan, citing environmental concerns.
In a 4 to 3 vote at its July 1 meeting, the Columbia City Council voted to allow a revised plan to go before the commission because it was determined to be different enough from the original proposal.
Commissioner Bill Tillotson said there will never be a satisfactory agreement with opponents to the plan and the development of the land will be a compromise.
"I’m a big believer in the developer and the parties at hand trying to work really hard to come to an agreement," he said. "It seems to me that this developer has gone above and beyond."
Commissioners Rusty Strodtman and Andy Lee said they did not support the request initially because of the opposition by state park officials. Although environmental concerns still weigh heavily on the commission, they agreed the developer has made a strong effort to address those concerns.
According to a report from the meeting, the zoning request is associated with a concurrent annexation petition, which has been sent before council and is scheduled to be voted on at its Aug. 19 meeting.
Changes to the request
The 38.5-acre site is located off Route K and south of Providence and Old Plank roads and is bordered by single-family zoned land and Rock Bridge State Park.
According to the plan, efforts would be made to preserve the environment in and around the development and comply with requests made by Missouri State Parks.
Developers made several adjustments to previous plans by:
- Stipulating a minimum of 70 percent open space
- Including a 75-foot buffer from Rock Bridge State Park, which would not permit any development unless authorized by Missouri State Parks
- Including a 200-foot wide stream buffer along a creek on the property, doubling the standard 100-foot wide buffer
- Stipulating 90 percent tree preservation
- Reducing impervious area, or man-made structures, to 24 percent
Developers received signatures on a petition from surrounding neighbors that support the development. Several residents in surrounding neighborhoods voiced that support at the meeting.
"We were kind of afraid that student housing was going to go into it at some point," Chase Whitmore said. "When the developer came to us we were incredibly excited."
The plan has faced criticisms about the development's density and potential environmental impact from neighboring communities, park officials and environmental groups.
Director of Missouri State Parks Bill Bryan said the developers complied with many of the state's requests but concerns still remain about impervious land, degradation of water quality, noise and light pollution and the introduction of invasive plant species. An agreement was never met with the developers, he said.
“To say polite things in a letter does not mean you agree with concepts being discussed or that there is an agreement at all," Bryan said.
Ken Midkiff, conservation chair of the Osage Group of the Sierra Club, said the area is inappropriate for development because of the potential for sink holes, water contamination and developmental sprawl.
"In fact, it is sprawl," he said, "And no matter what you call it, it’s not smart growth.”
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