Smithton Ridge neighbors unite

Their concerns about traffic link neighbors in new I-70 pathway.
Friday, March 26, 2004 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 1:58 p.m. CDT, Monday, July 7, 2008

When residents north of West Broadway learned last summer about plans to build a connector road through their neighborhood to Interstate 70, they banded together to voice concerns about increased traffic, reduced property values and effects on wildlife.

Residents began meeting and presenting their views at Columbia City Council and the Planning and Zoning Commission meetings in an effort to preserve the integrity of their neighborhood.

The response to the road plans united the residents like never before, and in February the Smithton Ridge Neighborhood Association became the most recent of more than 50 neighborhood groups to be officially recognized by city government.

The neighborhood of about 100 homes has a mixed population. The longest-term residents have lived in their homes for less than five years. There are still a few lots that have “For Sale” signs posted along the streets, easily visible to any potential buyers.

“My impression is that the neighborhood is a fair number of retired people,” said Russ Geen, chairman of the fledgling neighborhood association. “There’s also a good number of families and children.”

Jerry Antel, association treasurer, said he likes the neighborhood for the different types of people who live there.

“It’s not too young or too old,” Antel said. “In some neighborhoods in Columbia, we’d be one of the old couples, and we’d be out of place.”

Homes in Smithton Ridge sit on spacious lots. Maroon brick or smooth gray and off-white color schemes are connected by the white decorative stone trim that accents homes. Each of the houses’ designs is different, shunning the sameness of some subdivisions. Smithton Ridge resident Luann Corbin said her family recently joined the neighborhood association. “We’re anxious to get started, and we look forward to our community having better representation,” she said.

Corbin said she likes her neighborhood’s yards and the spacing of houses.

“We’ve lived here for almost two years,” Corbin said. “The neighbors are friendly. It’s a good location between work and schools and right now our kids can walk to school.”

Other residents also feel a strong sense of community.

Fran Brown of Day Flower Court said she likes the presence of professionals.

“It’s a nice neighborhood, and the people really care about their yards and the kids here,” she said.

“We had a meeting party with our neighbors when we all moved in,” Brown said, mentioning that neighbors on her street occasionally have dinner gatherings.

Brown said the new association keeps residents informed about goings-on.

And there are other benefits to being organized. The city notifies recognized neighborhood associations about nearby zoning and subdivision applications and about city projects that might affect them. Neighborhood associations also are eligible for grants that pay for housing projects or other improvements. Private developers and city officials also are regular speakers at neighborhood association meetings.

One issue that has not yet become an official concern of the Smithton Ridge association is the Wal-Mart Supercenter planned for property along West Broadway and across from the Hy-Vee grocery store. The development is particularly worrisome for Brown, who has lived in the neighborhood four years.

“People already drive too fast down Broadway,” Brown said. “With a Wal-Mart, it’s just going to bring more traffic, and we’ll have to worry more about children’s safety as they’re walking to school.”

Corbin said she always knew the area would grow, “but not quite this fast. I think that too much is being built too fast without paying attention to the structure of the roads,” she said.

Continuing road and development issues ensure the Smithton Ridge association will remain busy advocating for its interests.

“We take a great deal of pride in our part of town,” Geen said. “We just want to do anything we can to keep our part of town attractive to us and families who would like to move here.”

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