Attorney reviews Philips ordinance

Wednesday, March 31, 2004 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 10:16 a.m. CDT, Friday, July 4, 2008

The city attorney is reviewing a request by the Sierra Club to repeal the ordinance allowing development on the Philips farm, city officials said Tuesday.

Earlier this month, the Columbia City Council approved the ordinance to annex and zone the 489 acres in southeast Columbia to allow developer Elvin Sapp to put a mix of homes, shops and office buildings on the land.

But representatives from the Ozark Chapter of the Sierra Club think the ordinance violates the city charter, which says an ordinance should be limited to one specific subject.

The Sierra Club’s conservation chairman, Ken Midkiff, said Tuesday those problems mean that the whole approval process for the Philips property, including public hearings, will have to be redone. The project has been working its way through the city bureaucracy for more than a year.

“They have to do it over,” he said. “They have to start from the beginning.”

The city attorney, Fred Boeckmann, is reviewing the group’s request, Mayor Darwin Hindman and City Manager Ray Beck both said Tuesday. Boeckmann did not return calls seeking comment.

In a March 25 letter addressed to Hindman, Sierra Club attorney Kathleen Henry says the Philips ordinance contains requests for annexation and zoning, as well as details about stormwater management, traffic studies, a transportation development district and the acquisition of part of the Philips land for a new regional park.

Henry says that’s more information than the city charter allows in one ordinance. The charter also says all subjects in an ordinance should be included in its title. The title of the current ordinance lists only annexation and zoning.

Both Beck and Hindman said Tuesday that they weren’t sure what the city will do next or whether the ordinance violates the city charter. But both seemed confident the matter was a “technicality” that can be cleared up quickly.

“We have to wait for the city counselor to tell us what to do,” Hindman said.

Both Beck and Hindman noted Tuesday that most of the details, such as the stormwater policies, were included in the ordinance at the request of opponents such as the Boone County Smart Growth Coalition. Those opponents repeatedly asked Sapp to guarantee he will protect the environmentally sensitive Gans and Clear creeks near the property.

“The ordinance is a little more detailed than what is normally in it,” Beck said.

Beck added that it’s not unusual for ordinances to contain annexation and zoning requests together.

Hindman said the council would correct the ordinance if there are any problems with its title or contents.

“We’ll get it taken care of,” he said.

Midkiff said the Sierra Club would consider suing the city if it doesn’t repeal the current ordinance. He also said the group’s representatives plan to protest at all public hearings about the Philips property. Sapp still has to win the council’s approval for development plans for each of the nine tracts in the project.

“We’ll use any means necessary at our disposal to slow down, stop, or delay this project,” Midkiff said.

Sapp spokesman Mark Farnen said Tuesday that the developer isn’t involved in the ordinance controversy.

Farnen noted that the opponents did not mention the possible charter violation until now. He said the council is “being accused of doing what was being asked for.”

Farnen, Beck, and Hindman all said they never discussed potential problems with the title or wording with Boeckmann.

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