Council discusses airport, Wal-Mart

Wednesday, September 3, 2003 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 4:16 p.m. CDT, Thursday, July 10, 2008

[Note: this story has been modified since its original posting to correct errors.]

Two of the largest proposed Columbia developments in recent memory appeared on the agenda of the Columbia City Council Tuesday night: one was tabled, and the council took a small step toward further study of the other.

The council also debated the fate the Columbia Regional Airport's early-morning and late-night flights.

A public hearing and council vote on Aspen Acquisitions Inc.'s proposal for a Wal-Mart Supercenter and accompanying development along Grindstone Parkway was put off for another two weeks.

Also on Tuesday night, the council approved a proposed subsidy to preserve early-morning and late-night flights at Columbia Regional Airport. Under the plan, the city will pay Trans States Airlines $13,500 over the next 90 days to cover the cost of three-person flight crews spending the night in Columbia. The council also approved reducing the airline's rent on airport property by up to $3,116 over the same period. The council has the option of extending both subsidies for a second 90-day period.

And, on a 6-0 vote with an abstention by Ward 5 representative John John, the council decided to hire a consultant to do an independent evaluation of stormwater management plans for the 489-acre Philips tract. Developer Elvin Sapp wants to create a mix of residential and business uses there after having the land rezoned and annexed by the city.

Before the vote, council members debated whether their actions would call future council decisions into question.

"I don't think we can start hiring a consultant every time there is a controversy," said City Manager Ray Beck.

Because of the large scale of the Philips Tract development, however, the council felt an outside assessment was warranted.

"We're doing this because this seems pretty complex," said Jim Loveless, Ward 4 representative. "We need someone with more expertise and more time."

Sapp has already submitted as part of his plan a stormwater study by Denver-based engineering consultant Jonathan Jones, who predicted development on the site might actually improve water quality in the area. Neighbors and members of the Boone County Smart Growth Coalition, however, worry that runoff from the development might pollute nearby Gans and Clear creeks, which are part of the sensitive Little Bonne Femme watershed.

The Smart Growth Coalition had asked the council to consider hiring an outside consultant to study the plan. The consultant will be paid between $5,000 and $15,000 from the city's stormwater utility fund, according to a report from city staff.

The council decided to let city staff pick a consultant rather than form a committee. That committee would have included representatives of the city staff, the developer and the Little Bonne Femme Watershed District.

Also on the agenda for the next meeting is a discussion regarding the rezoning for Aspen Acquisitions Inc.'s proposed 53-acre Grindstone Plaza development.

Attorney Craig Van Matre in an Aug. 28 letter asked the council to table the rezoning request to allow more time to address concerns expressed by neighbors and by the Planning and Zoning Commission.

The commission on Aug. 8 recommended the council reject the plan after hearing comments from several members of the Grindstone/Rock Quarry Neighborhood Association. The developer, of which Stan Kroenke is a member, has since met with area residents, Van Matre said, adding that he believes the city would require only small changes in the plan.

"We have tried to assuage their concerns," Van Matre said of the residents. "The neighbors believe they need more time to digest the complexities of the plan."

Attempts to reach members of the neighborhood association were unsuccessful, but at Tuesday's meeting mayor Darwin Hindman said neighbors also wanted the matter to be put on hold.

Van Matre's letter said he remains confident neighbors and the developer will compromise. The matter will appear on the council's Sept. 15 agenda.

"Obviously nothing about a large development such as this is simple," he wrote. "Still, it is hard to imagine a better location for this development."

Missourian reporters Jenn Day and Rebecca Loveridge contributed to this report.

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