It's a done deal. The 489-acre Philips farm will be developed.
Despite some fervent public opposition over the past year, the farm's fate was sealed Monday night as the Columbia City Council voted 5-1 to approve Elvin Sapp's controversial annexation and zoning request.
"There has never been an issue before the council, in my time, that took this amount of research, this amount of discussion and this amount of worry," Councilman Bob Hutton said during the time when each council member expressed their own thoughts about the development.
Hutton continued to say, "The whole public process has certainly made the project better."
In a surprise, last-minute move, Sapp rallied about 200 supporters to the meeting.
Kevin Gibbons, in support of the proposal said it was "environmentally sound" and that the development went "above and beyond what ought to be expected of a development of this sort."
Gibbons also said, "The reputation of Sapp as a developer is unmatched in this community."
Meanwhile, the opposition showed up in large numbers to voice their concerns of the project, which will be one of the largest in Boone County history. Opponents fear Sapp's plans are just too big for the area and that it will encourage the city to continue developping.
"We constantly hear this mantra of more taxes, more jobs..." Randy Tindall said in opposition. "Will that be enough? I think I know the answer. There is no enough. I think there is no end."
They also worry Sapp's development might generate contaminated storm-water runoff that would dump pollutants into nearby Gans and Clear creeks and called for the council to set standards for developments.
"What would call for rigorous standards?" Martha Patton asked the council. "It would be something with implications beyond the city of Columbia. This is precisely the kind of event in this community that calls for standards."
Opponents also talked about preserving the natural beauty and surroundings of the area, including Rock Bridge Memorial State Park.
"This park is much more rugged than we give it credit for," Larry Schuster said to the council while he was speaking in support of the project. "It's durable and can handle more than we give it credit for."
The council acknowledged the community concerns but seemed reassured by Sapp's repeated claims that he intends to protect the creeks and manage storm water to the best of his ability.
Councilman Brian Ash was the sole dissenter in the vote. Ash said his "hurdle" was the open commercial zoning in Tract 8 and the amount of public input allowed in that type of zoning.
"Yes, I want it in the city, but I only approve of eight of the nine requested zonings," Ash said during the council's discussion.
Since Sapp started working his project through city bureaucracy in July 2003, the development plans have been amended several times to detail his responsibilities about storm-water management, street upgrades and parking.
Sapp has agreed to pay half of the cost for a new interchange at Gans Road and U.S. 63 to serve the development and up to half of the cost for improvements to Gans Road, Bearfield Road, and Ponderosa Street.
The city will establish a special sales tax, called a Transportation Development District, to recoup both Sapp's and the city's costs.
The city might acquire Tract 3 and part of Tract 4 from Sapp for a new regional park that would span 500 acres and link Nifong Park to Rock Bridge Memorial State Park. That includes 63 acres Sapp would donate to the city and another 77 the city would buy for about $1.23 million.
Sapp must now submit separate development plans for all nine tracts.