Though the city planning staff has recommended rejection of Elvin Sapp’s plans for the 489-acre Philips farm, Sapp’s representative sees the report only as an extension of debate on the proposed development.
The staff report issued Thursday — in advance of next week’s meeting of the city Planning and Zoning Commission — cites several problems with Sapp’s proposal, including its call for open commercial zoning on two of the plan’s nine tracts, the absence of a traffic study that would assess potential impact on U.S. 63 and surrounding streets, building heights and setbacks that exceed city standards and uncertainty about how necessary sewer upgrades would be financed.
Sapp spokesman Mark Farnen of Woodruff Communications welcomed the report and called some of the staff’s suggestions negotiable.
“It presents some new issues ... and on these there can be some level of agreement, and we can satisfy these,” he said.
Farnen noted that Sapp seeks open commercial zoning for only 5 percent of the entire development and said, “We believe that it will not have a deleterious effect on the watershed.”
Farnen also predicted Sapp will challenge a staff suggestion that he change his request for planned commercial zoning on two tracts to planned office zoning and that the developer will not relent on his refusal to pay thousands of dollars for a traffic study before the city acts.
“Until we have some hint of assurance of what kind of zoning will be allowed, we would not go for a traffic study,” he said, adding it’s also important to know whether the city will buy a large section of the land for a park.
Planning and Zoning Chairman Jerry Wade declined to comment. The report is on the commission’s agenda for next week.
Tony Davis, vice president of the Clear Creek Neighborhood Association, was guarded in his reaction.
“The building heights, open zoning, are pawns in the game. The developer will agree to abide by these city regulations in exchange for the proposed level of development,” he said.
Davis said he remains concerned about the density of development and its potential impact on water quality and on remaining undeveloped land in the area.
Meanwhile, the Columbia City Council tentatively agreed during a Thursday budget work session to let attorney Dan Simon, who represents Sapp, present an explanation of the Philips plan on Monday.