Don’t expect to be browsing at a store on a developed Philips farm any time soon.
The Columbia City Council voted 5-1 early Tuesday morning to approve developer Elvin Sapp’s annexation and zoning requests for the land. Sixth Ward Councilman Brian Ash cast the dissenting vote, and Fifth Ward Councilman John John, the real estate agent for the property, abstained.
But Sapp’s representatives said Tuesday it could take years before the project is complete. The council approval is just one of many steps Sapp must complete before fulfilling his plan for a mix of homes, condos, offices and retail shops on the 489-acre farm along the new southeast border of the city.
Before any building can occur on the site, Sapp must submit development and water-quality plans for eight of the nine tracts in his project. One of the tracts, however, was zoned for open commercial uses, meaning Sapp only has to submit a water plan. The council will hold separate public hearings and votes on eight of the tracts.
Sapp spokesman Mark Farnen said his client had begun work on specific plans for developing the property but decided to hold off until after the council’s vote. Now he’s dusting off the plans and getting down to business.
“We had a sigh of relief (after the vote) that it was done. But we know that much work is yet to come,” Farnen said. “This is where it all starts to get on paper.”
Meanwhile, City Manager Ray Beck said Tuesday that the city would buy 77 acres of land from Sapp and accept the donation of another 63 acres, including 40-acre Bristol Lake, as part of a new regional park. Beck said the ordinance approved by the council outlines the deal for the parkland, but the city hasn’t signed a contract with Sapp. The developer wants $1.23 million for the acreage offered for sale to the city.
City officials hope to combine the Philips parkland with 320 acres owned by Sue Crane across Gans Road to create a 500-acre park. If successful, the new park would link Nifong Park to Rock Bridge Memorial State Park.
Beck said the city plans to survey the land before signing any contract. The ordinance gives the city 90 days to complete that survey and make an offer.
“There’s a lot of work to be done,” Beck said.
Beck said that once the city acquired the parkland, it would start working on grading and storm-water plans for the new park.
In the meantime, Sapp is moving forward. Farnen said Sapp met with his engineers and construction team Tuesday morning to discuss what’s next for the project.
Farnen said it’s likely that the 16 to 20 homes planned for Tract 1, a 29-acre parcel along Bearfield Road at the southwest corner of the property, or the 220 homes planned for Tract 2, a 74-acre parcel to the east, will be built first. He wouldn’t predict, however, when that construction might start.
Sapp can build up to 350 homes on the property before triggering a provision of the ordinance that requires him to help pay for improvements to Gans Road, Bearfield Road and Ponderosa Street and to cover up to half the cost of a new U.S. 63 interchange at Gans Road.
Farnen said that interchange could take many years to complete, depending on how fast the city wants to move on developing its new park.
Sapp’s timetable for construction also depends on potential delays in the city process, Farnen said. The project has been chugging its way through city bureaucracy for nearly a year.
The contract between the Philips family and Sapp for the final sale of the land should be complete next month, Farnen added.