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Columbia Missourian

Council approves Wal-Mart plan

October 7, 2003 | 12:00 a.m. CDT

Development gets a green light with 6-1 vote after changes to proposal

Another Wal-Mart is coming to town.

After tabling the issue three times in the past two months, the Columbia City Council voted 6-1 Monday to approve a rezoning that will put a new Wal-Mart Supercenter on the city’s south side. The 53-acre shopping plaza, along Grindstone Parkway, will include other commercial developments.

The council stalled its decision on the project throughout August and September to allow developer Aspen Acquisitions Inc. time to adjust its plans to suit council members and neighbors. Both groups worried about the size of the project, its parking lot, its lighting and traffic problems it might create.

Safety issues addressed

Most of those concerns were addressed by adjusting the plan in the past few weeks, said Craig Van Matre, attorney for Aspen Acquisitions. Both the height of light fixtures and the number of parking spaces have been reduced in the new plans.

But changes still may be made before construction begins. During the Monday meeting, Van Matre repeatedly emphasized his clients’ willingness to work with the city to change any potential problems.

“If the city staff measures the glare (of the light fixtures) and thinks it’s too much, we will tinker with the light poles,” he said.

Also, the developer’s new plans include a promise to clean up storm-water retention problems at Columbia’s other Wal-Mart Supercenter site on Conley Road in Broadway Marketplace.

“We want to work with the city to resolve those problems (at the Broadway Marketplace site) as soon as possible,” Van Matre said. “We are willing to enter into a developer agreement with the city to hold us to the promises we’ve outlined here.”

Amendment may maintain commitment

The council decided to hold him to that promise.

Before it approved the rezoning, the council added an amendment intended to hold Aspen Acquisitions to all commitments outlined in the plaza plans, including proper maintenance of storm-water filters on the site.

Only Fourth Ward Councilman Jim Loveless voted against the plan, primarily because of its location.

“I think it’s a great plan but it’s in the wrong place,” he said.

Some remain unconvinced

Neighbors at the meeting agreed, repeatedly accusing the council of violating the Rock Quarry Road Special Area Plan by approving the Grindstone Plaza project. That plan was created in 2000 by city staff along with neighbor feedback and says the area should be developed for a mixed-use of residential and office buildings.

“Of the dozens of zoning requests, this one is the least amenable to the site of any development in Columbia,” said Jan Pritchard, who lives off of Rock Quarry Road.

Michelle Wheeler, who lives in the nearby area, called Wal-Mart a “nightmare.”

“Do not lock Columbia in a Wal-Mart triangle that it can’t get out of,” she told the council.

Mayor Darwin Hindman spoke in favor of the development and commended Aspen Acquisitions for its willingness to work with the city. He said he weighed the pros and cons of the project and decided he should support it.

“When I add all those things together, this is a development I think we should permit,” he said.

Van Matre said the final development plan must still be submitted to the council before construction can begin. Aspen Acquisitions hoped to break ground on the project this fall, but work might not begin until spring because of delays.

Also Monday night, the council approved a rezoning of property immediately to the east of the Grindstone Plaza development along a planned extension of Green Meadows Road. Developer CMK Partnership wants to use the land to build seven apartment buildings and 11 duplexes.

Missourian reporter Kelly Snowden contributed to this report.