The Columbia Planning and Zoning Commission voted 5 to 2 Thursday to recommend denial of a rezoning request to construct a Wal-Mart Supercenter and the Grindstone Plaza.
The Columbia City Council will make a final decision regarding the proposal at a later date.
The commission began deliberating at 10:41 p.m. and reached a decision shortly after 11 p.m. Some commission members said they were hesitant about the proposal because the land tracts are too small to house a development of that scale.
“This major retail center violates both purposes of the Rock Quarry Road Special Area Plan,” said Jerry Wade, chairman of the commission. The special purpose plan was drafted in 2002 and outlines some of the goals for development in the area, including a mixed commercial, residential and office development.
In response to a suggestion by the commission to scale down the development plan, Wade said, “This is a well-done plan. It needs to be evaluated on the basis of its integrity.” The development plan would be appropriate in a land area other than the Grindstone tract, Wade said.
Aspen Acquisitions Inc., of which Stan Kroenke is a member, is under contract to buy land between Green Meadows and Rock Quarry roads from Red Oak Investment Co. to build the 53-acre shopping center. However, the sale is dependent on rezoning some of the land from agricultural to commercial.
The site is proposed to be divided into three main tracts. Tract one would be the site of a 184,236-square-foot Wal-Mart Supercenter, 91,500 square feet of retail sales and a gas station. It will also have a storm water detention pond 20 feet deep — larger than the one at Columbia Mall. Tract two would be 72,000 square feet of “mixed use” zoning, which is defined on the proposal as retail and office space on the first floor and 36 residential housing units on the second floor. Tract three is to be a buffer between the development and Rock Quarry Road.
At the meeting, Craig Van Matre, attorney for Aspen Acquisitions, addressed the commission with an overview of the development and issued a request for commission approval.
“We think we have an excellent plan worthy of support,” Van Matre said.
Julie Youmans, president of the Rock Quarry Road Neighborhood Association, said the association initially tentatively endorsed the plan presented by the developers in June. However, Youmans said, some members have since had second thoughts.
“People have called me about storm water issues, current flooding in Seven Oaks and Wal-Mart’s track record after the Conley Road site in regard to storm water,” Youmans said. “People have discussed the overall economic benefit or not of supercenters and what that does to local businesses. Really, a lot has come up in terms of questioning, will the process safeguard people’s concerns.”
Youmans also said a previous development in the area had promised things that the people in the area later felt were unfulfilled, and the people are worried about the promises of this development. She also said there were several surprises in the developer’s presentation last night.
“The neighbors are nervous,” Youmans said.
Donna Kaster is one of those concerned about what the effect having a Wal-Mart Supercenter in her neighborhood would have on other Columbia businesses, especially stores such as Gerbes and Kmart that might be pushed into bankruptcy.
“I like Wal-Mart just like anybody else, but we don’t need three supercenters in the city,” Kaster said. “The more I found out and researched it, the more I found out we don’t need a third supercenter in Columbia.”
According to the staff report by the Planning and Zoning Commission, the new development adds about 30 acres of commercial zoning, which is two-and-a-half times the amount originally slated in the Rock Quarry Road Special Area Plan.
State Rep. Vicki Riback Wilson, D-Columbia, also spoke at the meeting, expressing concern that an additional 50 cars per hour would be added to Rock Quarry Road when the developers had originally said there would be no additional traffic. Aspen Acquisitions said they plan to apply for a Transportation Development District to fund the construction of two additional roads and changes to Green Meadows Road, including a traffic signal, lane improvements and storm water facilities.
The development’s storm water plan must be submitted for final approval and a three-acre tract of land bought to meet the city’s tree preservation requirements before the plan is introduced to the City Council for final approval.