Residents file suit to halt Parkside Estates Development

Friday, June 6, 2014 | 5:57 p.m. CDT

COLUMBIA — The Great Rivers Environmental Law Center said Friday it has filed a lawsuit against the City of Columbia in an attempt to stop the development of Parkside Estates near Rock Bridge Memorial State Park.

The lawsuit was filed on behalf of two Columbia residents and the Friends of Rock Bridge Memorial State Park. They believe the development is affecting water quality in the park. 

"Construction has to stop," plaintiff Ken Midkiff said in a news release. "The land disturbance activities have already caused mud to fill the creek in Rock Bridge State Park." 

The lawsuit was filed on the grounds that the Columbia City Council passed an ordinance in September that annexed and zoned the property, approved a preliminary plat, granted sidewalk variances and imposed some stormwater controls.

Great Rivers said the ordinance in question, No. 21788, violated state law because it contained five subjects: annexing land, zoning land, approving the preliminary plat, granting variances from sidewalks and requiring stormwater controls.

Great Rivers President Kathleen Henry said Missouri law only allows ordinances to contain one subject and said the Missouri Supreme Court has made it clear that this practice is illegal.

"If the council did it with one subject at a time as they should have, then they could have voted for the annexation and then against the development," she said. "Sidewalks should not be combined with annexation in an ordinance." 

City Counselor Nancy Thompson said Friday she was unaware of the lawsuit. She also said there is "nothing out of the ordinary" with the ordinance in question.

On April 21, the council rejected the final plat for Parkside Estates. Some members cited worries about stormwater drainage from the property and its effect on the park. Because final plats are ministerial acts, Thompson warned the council at the time that it was opening itself up to litigation from the developers.

Meanwhile, the Missouri Department of Natural Resources issued Southside Trail Estates — the company developing the land — a notice of violation in regard to water pollution April 18. 

The development is located adjacent to the park on Route K. The 35-acre property will be turned into 76 lots for residential homes.

Supervising editor is Scott Swafford.

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Tracy Greever-Rice June 7, 2014 | 9:44 a.m.

It is unfortunate for the citizens and taxpayers of Columbia that we have allowed ourselves a city administration and all-too-frequently a majority of council members who believe their primary - and in some cases ONLY - role is to facilitate real estate development, ANY development at ANY cost.

Thank goodness there are citizens paying attention and who are willing to protect our shared and, in some cases, irreplaceable resources.

Great cities have culture, history, and viable, sustainable natural resources. Great communities run on trust, transparency, and a shared and authentic commitment to democratic processes and the fair application of the rule of law.

Sadly, Columbia is currently mired in the latter which bodes ill for the former. It's time for Columbians to step up.

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