Council again affirms Philips

Tuesday, April 20, 2004 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 9:36 a.m. CDT, Friday, July 18, 2008

Act II of the Philips development drama Monday night didn’t live up to the theatrics of previous public hearings.

Forced to reconsider the ordinance after the Ozark Chapter of the Sierra Club protested a flawed title in the previous version, the council reaffirmed its previous vote in favor of annexing and zoning the 489-acre Philips property on the southeast edge of the city.

The council had already voted 5-1 last month to approve developer Elvin Sapp’s plan to put a mix of homes, businesses and office buildings on the tract. That vote followed months of public debate and hours of testimony before the council.

To overcome the complaint, the council added a long title to the bill, covering all the aspects of zoning, annexation and other aspects of the proposal.

While Monday night’s hearing lasted only a few minutes, Sierra Club representative Johann Holt took the opportunity to make his points.

Holt said the ordinance was still broad and that members of the community should be able to petition and vote against specific aspects of the proposal, which he said can’t be done as the bill is written.

Holt said the Sierra Club would decide in the next couple of weeks whether to sue the city. If the club does not sue, it will likely start gathering signatures in support of an initiative to repeal parts of the bill.

Sapp spokesman Mark Farnen said redoing the process was unnecessary and was just the Sierra Club’s way of slowing down development.

“They are risk-averse,” Farnen said of the council members, adding that the council would have acted differently if it thought it could lose lawsuits in the future.

No change

No council member’s vote changed since March. Sixth Ward Councilman Brian Ash dissented again Monday, and Fifth Ward Councilman John John, the real estate agent for the property, abstained.

Ash said he dissented for the same reasons as before — out of principle that one of the nine tracts had open commercial zoning. He also commended the council for admitting its mistake and fixing the problem, saying “It would have been easier to ignore it.”

Fewer than 50 people attended, most of whom supported the council’s previous action. More than 100 people attended the previous vote. Sapp acknowledged the 40 or so in attendance Monday who supported development, asking them to stand.

Because of the long process of approval still ahead, Farnen said development likely wouldn’t begin for another six months, starting with residential development.

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