Philips decision to face new vote

Friday, April 2, 2004 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 1:09 a.m. CDT, Friday, July 4, 2008

The vote approving the annexation and zoning of the Philips farm will have to be redone.

Because of a faulty title, City Counselor Fred Boeckmann said Thursday, the Columbia City Council will have to vote again on an ordinance allowing Elvin Sapp to develop the 489 acres just southeast of the city limits for a mix of homes, offices and businesses. The change means there will be another public hearing on the plans as well.

Boeckmann’s decision comes after Kathleen Henry, an attorney representing the Ozark Chapter of the Sierra Club, sent a letter to the city March 25 outlining what the club perceives to be flaws in the Philips ordinance.

Henry said the ordinance violates Article II, Section 15 of the city charter, which states city ordinances should deal with only one subject and that those subjects should be clearly outlined in the title. While the Philips ordinance deals with annexation, zoning, storm-water management, traffic studies, and parkland, the title of the ordinance mentions only annexation and zoning, Henry said.

Boeckmann conceded Thursday that the title is a problem and that it would have to be amended to include the other topics.

“I messed up,” he said.

Still, Boeckmann said he believes there is no merit to the Sierra Club’s claims that the ordinance’s vagueness makes it invalid because it deals with too many subjects.

Boeckmann said that because the ordinance deals with annexation, zoning and development of one piece of land, it comprises only one subject.

Henry said Thursday that Boeckmann’s decision to change the title validates her argument that the Philips ordinance just deals with too much.

Boeckmann said there’s a slight chance that amendments to the ordinance dealing with topics such as storm-water management and parkland might not hold up in court if the Sierra Club were to challenge the “one-subject” rule.

But he said, “if I thought there was any merit to that, I would have advised the council that way.”

If the council approves the renamed ordinance, Sapp will be allowed to proceed with his plans for the land even if the Sierra Club decides to sue, Boeckmann said. “The city and the developer would go forward assuming that the ordinance was valid,” he said.

Henry said that in rare cases, courts have forced developers to restore land they have already developed. But she couldn’t say whether the Sierra Club would go forward with a lawsuit.

Sierra Club representatives did not return phone calls Thursday.

Sapp spokesman Mark Farnen said he sees no reason the council wouldn’t approve the ordinance with a new title — it approved the first one on a 5-1 vote. Farnen said Sapp would continue as planned with his development.

The council will have a first reading of the new Philips ordinance and a public hearing and vote April 19.

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