The fate of the controversial Grindstone Plaza development, which would put a Wal-Mart Supercenter on Columbia’s south side, remains uncertain.
After nearly three hours, the Columbia City Council tabled the rezoning of the controversial 53-acre Grindstone Plaza project proposal, which includes a Wal-Mart Supercenter and accompanying development along Grindstone Parkway.
The council worried about the amount of lighting and signage in the plan and questioned the size of the project’s parking lot. Council members also said they were concerned about traffic and stormwater runoff created by the proposed development.
The council’s action will allow the developer, Aspen Acquisition Inc., time to provide city staff with additional information about those issues.
Residents and developers argue over planned development
Before the decision, debate raged between representatives from Aspen and residents of the rapidly developing area.
Aspen’s attorney Craig Van Matre stressed that the developer has amended plans to address concerns raised by both the city and neighbors, including adjusting the project’s lighting and proposing a unique stormwater-filtering system for the site.
Van Matre introduced a host of speakers supporting the developer, including Chuck Morris, a professor of civil engineering at the University of Missouri-Rolla. Morris said he visited the site and is confident the plan’s stormwater-management system will work.
“Denial of this plan should not be based on concerns about stormwater,” he urged the council.
Neighborhood association at odds with development group
Members of the Grindstone/Rock Quarry Road Neighborhood Association did not share Morris’ confidence. Neighbors have been at odds with the development group, of which Stan Kroenke is a member, over the size, location, and environmental effects of the project.
Julie Youmans, president of the association, said neighbors are confused and have expressed a wide range of opinions about the plan.
“There’s been every opinion possible on this,” she said. “They are all strong feelings, from ‘This is horrible’ to ‘This is the greatest plan we could expect.’ ”
Some 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.
City staff says proposal fits Special Area Plan
In a report to the council last week, 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.
Jeff Barrow, a member of the city’s Planning and Zoning Commission, spoke out against the development because its scale “flies in the face” of everything the city originally intended with the Special Area Plan.
“Its analogous to building a barn for a horse and someone wants to put elephants in it,” Barrow said.
Former Sixth Ward Councilman John Coffman agreed.
“Instead of thinking outside the box, think about maybe a smaller box,” he said.
The council will take up the issue at its Oct. 6 meeting. This is the second time in the past month the council has tabled the project.