Conversations between the developer and neighbors of the 53-acre Grindstone Plaza project proposed for south Columbia are moving at a snail’s pace, although neighbors have discussed requesting money from the developer to protect the area.
Members of the Grindstone/ Rock Quarry Road Neighborhood Association and representatives of Aspen Acquisitions, Inc., asked the Columbia City Council last week to table a public hearing and vote on the project so the developer could have more time to discuss neighbors’ problems with the plan. The neighborhood association initially supported the proposed Wal-Mart Supercenter and accompanying development along Grindstone Parkway but had second thoughts after plans were presented to the Planning and Zoning Commission in early August.
“The neighborhood’s original support (of the Grindstone Plaza plan) was very tentative,” said Julie Youmans, president of the neighborhood association. “People didn’t have sufficient time to really consider the plans.”
Project might not fit Rock Quarry Special Plan
Residents worry the project does not fit with the Rock Quarry Road Special Area Plan, which was drafted in 2002 and called for a mix of commercial, residential and office development. The Planning and Zoning Commission agreed with neighbors’ objections to the Grindstone Plaza proposal and recommended the City Council reject it.
The neighbors are now trying to work with Aspen Acquisitions, of which Stan Kroenke is a member, to address their concerns about the plan, Youmans said. Both sides are eager to work together, though neighbors appear conflicted about what exactly they want from the developer.
While a few have complained that they simply don’t like Wal-Mart, Youmans said, some have said they aren’t comfortable with the size of the project or with the parking lot design. Others think the development could create traffic problems.
Aspen Acquisitions wants to help in any way they can
Craig Van Matre, the attorney representing Aspen Acquisitions, said he’s waiting for a detailed “wish list” of concerns from the neighbors so the two sides can negotiate.
“If they had specific concerns, we could address them,” he said. “It’s a very complicated plan, and if someone says, ‘We want you to move this driveway,’ that’s not something we could do.
“We want to help in any way we can. If they’re going to be opposed no matter what, we need to know where we stand.”
Neighbors lack the expertise needed to identify specific problems with the plans, Youmans said. She knows of no one who is working on a wish list but expects people will bring their own concerns to the table.
“There’s a lot of good faith here,” Youmans said. “But there’s a lot of genuine doubt.”
In unofficial meetings, neighbors have discussed asking for money from the developer for neighborhood improvements and maintenance, Youmans said, although no serious requests have been made.
“The question was put to us: ‘What else can we do to help you understand?’ ” Youmans said. “It was mentioned that we could ask for extra money to sock away to protect the Rock Quarry Road scenic-road designation.”
Youmans said neighbors floated a figure of $100,000, but “it was not an offer, and it was not a request.”
Van Matre denies money suggestion
Van Matre quickly dismissed the suggestion that neighbors were offered money for their own neighborhood improvements but conceded the groups had talked about adding more landscaping to the plaza project.
“We couldn’t possibly pay money to the neighborhood association,” Van Matre said. “If they said they were having problems with a sewer over here, we’d be willing to work with them on that.”
The two sides plan to meet tonight, and the City Council is scheduled to consider the plaza proposal Monday.