After almost an hour of debate, the Columbia City Council approved Forest Ridge’s site plan, stating that development should come before infrastructure.
Many residents living along Brown School Road, the site of the planned-unit development, expressed concerns about traffic, flooding and storm water conditions in the area.
The council also approved a resolution to set a public hearing concerning the voluntary annexation of the Philips farm property located southwest of U.S. 63 and north of Gans Road.
The new development on Brown School Road would add an additional 2,000 to 3,000 trips per day along the hilly, gravel road, which is also prone to flooding in two areas, residents said.
“It’s a wonderful place to live, and I don’t want tension with neighborhoods down the road,” said Pat Fowler, a Brown School Road resident. “My concern is to not make the situation worse, but to make it a little better.”
Although each council member acknowledged the concerns of residents, they cited the issue as a matter of what comes first: infrastructure or development.
Mayor Darwin Hindman proposed a reduced speed limit on the road, saying people will simply have to deal with going slowly.
Brown School Road runs east to Route 763, a popular route through the city. Although drivers can go west, the roads are not in good condition.
“They’re all lousy roads for right now,” said Bruce Becket, attorney for the three developers, “but they won’t be for long.”
The developers are PGS Development LLC. Eventually, Hindman and others expressed hope that Providence Road will eventually hook into the road, but until then Route 763 will continue to be the main connection. Becket said Providence Road is expected to be a substantial north-south roadway in the future.
Members of the council said Brown School Road would never get better without approving the site plan of Forest Ridge.
“Why should the fact that they have a traffic issue be on this developer’s shoulders?” John said.
Brown School Road is not the first road with this problem. Residents along Scott Boulevard have been dealing with road problems for a long time. City manager Ray Beck said the city is working on prioritizing these issues.
The council also agreed to set a public hearing on the voluntary
annexation of property located on the south side of Clearview Drive, which is adjacent to Clearview Subdivisions. If Forest Ridge is required to make an additional access, it could allow residents of the Clearview Subdivisions a second outlet.
The development of the Philips farm has been an ongoing controversy. The effects on water quality and increased traffic are two primary areas of concern. Under the proposed plan, developer Elvin Sapp would develop homes, offices and stores on the 489-acre tract of land.
Fifth Ward Councilman John John abstained; the remaining council members voted in favor of the resolution.
The Chamber of Commerce also met Monday to hear an update by a representative for Sapp on the Philips development.
Mark Farnen, spokesman for the development, told the Chamber of Commerce that the Philips development “meets the goals of growth that have been charted by this city; people may not like the plan, but we’re following it.”
“A lot of those people in that meeting were community leaders,” Farnen said. “We respect their interest and wanted to give them the full story.”
Farnen said the development will create jobs and increase economic development and infrastructure in that part of town.
This development is unprecedented in size and “dwarfs any other commercial development in the city,” said Joe Bindbeutel, a representative for the Clear Creek Neighborhood Association who also spoke at the meeting. Bindbeutel said that, considering the size of the project and the pristine quality of the environment, the development should not follow normal procedure.
“Unprecedented control and deliberation needs to be taken on the front end of this process,” Bindbeutel said. Some of the most important studies he cited were additional studies focusing on road development.