The Sierra Club knows how to rally supporters, but developer Elvin Sapp proved Monday he might be better at it.
About 150 Sapp supporters gathered Monday night as the City Council was set to vote on Sapp’s proposal to annex and zone the Philips farm, 489 acres just southeast of the city limits. Sapp wants to put a mix of homes, businesses and office buildings on the land, which if approved would be home to one of the largest developments in Boone County history.
The council was scheduled to make a final decision on the project but hadn’t voted as of press time Monday night.
While the council chambers were overflowing Monday, most of the people in the room were not there to oppose Sapp’s plans, but to support them.
After Sapp’s daughter, Valerie Barnes, asked supporters to stand, nearly everyone in the room leapt to their feet.
“We believe we have a good project,” Barnes said.
The overwhelming show of support was the result of Sapp’s effort to recruit speakers for the council’s final public hearing on the project. It was noteworthy because, until now, most of the people appearing before the council about the Philips project have opposed it.
“We told our people if you want to find a seat you should get here early,” said Sapp spokesman Mark Farnen.
Local members of the Sierra Club also recruited speakers this weekend by distributing about 1,500 fliers.
Due to recruitment efforts on both sides, the council chambers, which
chamber, which seats about 180 people, was filled a half hour before the meeting began.
Meanwhile, about 70 more people, a mix of supporters and opponents, waited downstairs in the lobby of the Daniel Boone Building.
While they might have been fewer in number Monday, the opponents were not shy about voicing their continuing objections to Sapp’s controversial project.
The opponents have openly opposed the project since it was proposed last summer.
They have expressed a worry that Sapp’s development might contaminate Gans and Clear Creeks.
Those concerns were echoed Monday night.
Barbara Hoppe, co-chairwoman of the Boone County Smart Growth Coalition, presented to the council a list of suggested changes the organized opposition put together after the city staff released an amendment of Sapp’s plans late last week.
Hoppe said Sapp should make his storm-water-management regulations more specific.
The council was still hearing speakers’ comments when the Missourian went to press this morning.
“We’ll be here a long time,” Mayor Darwin Hindman said.