After two weeks and one meeting between both sides, neighbors and developers remain at odds over the proposed 53-acre Grindstone Plaza project, which is scheduled for a public hearing and vote by the Columbia City Council on Monday night.
Members of the Grindstone-Rock Quarry Road Neighborhood Association and representatives of Aspen Acquisitions asked the City Council two weeks ago to table a vote on the project so the developer could have more time to address neighbors’ problems with the plan.
The neighbors initially supported the proposed Wal-Mart Supercenter and accompanying development along Grindstone Parkway but have since had second thoughts.
Although the two sides met Tuesday, little progress has been made.
Attorney Craig Van Matre, representing the group of developers that includes Stan Kroenke, said he is disappointed neighbors have been unable to offer a detailed list of concerns. “The neighbors will regret not working with us on this,” he said. “We’ve done everything that can be done.”
Van Matre said the developer is still interested in working with the neighbors, who have expressed concerns about the size of the development and its potential impact on traffic and storm water runoff.
“I’d still like to see more information,” said Julie Youmans, president of the neighborhood association. “If they weren’t on this tight timeline, we’d have more time to find out about storm water and traffic.”
Both sides say the developer has made concessions, including shorter light fixtures and better storm water management.
“These are good things they’ve offered to do, but the overall size (of the project) remains the same,” Youmans said.
Residents worry the plaza project doesn’t fit with the Rock Quarry Road Special Area Plan, which neighbors helped the city draft in 2002. That plan calls for a mix of commercial, residential and office development that would preserve the scenic character of the road.
In a report to the council, city staff said the Grindstone Plaza proposal fits the goals of the Special Area Plan, though the development is nearly 28 acres larger than the plan suggests.
Council members said last week that they share neighbors’ concerns. Fifth Ward Councilman John John said a comparison between the plaza proposal and the Special Area Plan will be a main factor in his decision.
“We kind of had the neighborhood make the decisions (with the Special Area Plan), and if it’s pretty close, then that’s one thing. If it’s not, then that’s another,” John said.
Sixth Ward Councilman Brian Ash agreed the Special Area Plan “is an important consideration.” He is interested in hearing neighbors’ concerns, especially about traffic.
Fourth Ward Councilman Jim Loveless said he worries whether the development will encroach too much on Rock Quarry Road. “The question I’m struggling with is just how far east do we want development to go,” he said.