Columbia’s Planning and Zoning Commission took the first steps toward building an Interstate 70 interchange west of Stadium Boulevard. Commission members voted six to one Thursday to recommend approval of the Columbia Area Transportation Study Organization’s plan; if approved by the City Council, the proposal will move to the Missouri Department of Transportation for final approval. But councilman Jim Loveless said that any construction of a Wal-Mart Supercenter behind the Columbia Mall would take many more steps before it could even begin.
“I am not committed to one technique or another, but we really need some relief on that traffic problem. I’m willing to look at anything that has that effect,” he said.
Columbia residents are concerned not only about traffic flow in the area, but also the repercussions of a Wal-Mart development.
“When I first went to the P&Z meeting, I didn’t realize the proposal has such far-reaching implications,” said resident Barbara Petroski. “There was a lady who spoke at the meeting who lives on Scott Boulevard, and she said that to hook Scott into the highway would create monumental traffic.”
Residents are also concerned that large-scale development will cause more frequent flooding because of inadequate stormwater control.
“Our major stormwater concerns are the sheer volume of water that will come from the development,” said resident Burton Schauf. “Without advanced or proper planning for both on-site and regional control of that generated water, there’s an increased chance for flooding.”
City planning commission vice chairman Karl Skala said he was dismayed at how the outcome of the commission’s decision was portrayed.
“The intent of my vote had to do with the fact that this simply will open up the opportunity to explore possibilities for further connectivity at the west side of town,” he said.
Like Loveless, Skala emphasized that the decision was not the go-ahead for developers to start constructing a Wal-Mart Supercenter. “For a development to be considered, the property would have to be rezoned for commercial use. But none of those decisions have been made, and in fact, none of the baby steps have been taken with regards to the rezoning question,” he said.
But developers did present a request for rezoning of a 57-acre tract off of Grindstone Parkway. Aspen Acquisitions Inc., which includes member Stan Kroenke, wants to build Grindstone Plaza, a 53-acre shopping center anchored by a Wal-Mart Supercenter.
The commission voted five to two to recommend denial of the rezoning request, and attorney Craig Van Matre, Aspen Acquisitions representative, was hardly surprised with the vote.
“P&Z hardly ever votes in favor of any large-scale commercial developments, but they’re wrong, and it’s an insult to staff, who spent three months of intense work on this and recommended approval,” he said.
The Grindstone development plan and the Transportation Study Organization’s plan will both be presented to the City Council at a later date. Loveless said he thinks the council will approve the organization’s plan.
“The council as a body is concerned about traffic issues in the vicinity, and I think they will endorse the study,” he said.