A contentious zoning proposal that would allow developers to build a mix of homes, offices and stores on the Philips farm — a 489-acre property southwest of Columbia — is back on the table after three months of behind-the-scenes analysis and planning.
Developer Elvin Sapp, who withdrew the proposal in September, resubmitted it Nov. 13 with a handful of restrictions and clarifications addressing concerns of residents and city staff. Sapp’s next step is the Columbia Planning and Zoning Commission, It will hold the first formal public hearing on the proposal Dec. 18.
The actual development project has barely changed from the original proposal, but Sapp has made his revision more restrictive, spokesman Mark Farnen said. Language was tweaked to be more specific in certain sections and more limiting in others, which locks Sapp into a development concept Farnen said he intended to pursue anyway.
“The horse comes before the cart for sure now,” Farnen said.
The new plan makes clear that Sapp will develop only certain types of buildings on certain tracts, leaving little to no wiggle room, Farnen said. Among other things, it also requires traffic studies under certain conditions and clarifies that up to 350 houses can be planned in certain tracts before peripheral roads are required.
Public furor about the Philips development proposal has relaxed since late summer, when engineering consultants CH2M Hill were hired by the city to wade through, interpret and evaluate a 4-inch-thick report Sapp commissioned to outline plans for storm-water management. Sapp subsequently withdrew his original zoning proposal, planning to file a revised version when the city’s consultants broke down the ponderous storm-water report.
CH2M Hill returned an evaluation of the storm-water report to city officials last week, praising it in many areas but questioning whether developers see caring for the 40-acre lake on the Philips property as a priority.
“That was bizarre,” Farnen said regarding the report’s concern. “We believe 100 percent that the lake must be protected.”
Farnen also deflected the report’s criticism that regrading the area would allow more dirty runoff to flow into the Gans and Clear creeks. He said Sapp plans to shift the regraded area south, which would give runoff less space to pick up dirt and send it into the Missouri River.
“This plan actually enhances our ability to catch anything that is eroded,” he said.
The Columbia City Council on Monday night accepted the report from CH2M Hill but seemed confounded by what to do with it. Some suggested the consultants be asked to give a presentation, while others said city staff should be charged with interpreting the document and reporting back to the council.
Since December 2002, many Columbia and Boone County residents have opposed development on the Philips farm, which is roughly one-third the size of the MU campus. Opponents have said the largely natural area should not be overrun with new homes and businesses, and they blasted Sapp for not showing enough concern for the environment.
Sapp has countered, saying he only plans to build on about one-third of the area. He has also argued consistently that his development would be environmentally sound.