Boone County Commissioners Skip Elkin and Karen Miller both applauded the initiative of Pierpont residents to incorporate their small piece of land and become a village. But after all the petitions, proposals and attorneys, the residents of Pierpont still have a ways to go — half a mile to be exact.
According to state law, the boundaries of a village must be two miles outside a city’s limit to incorporate. However, the boundaries drawn up in a petition presented by Pierpont’s residents, come within 11/2 miles of Columbia’s newly annexed Phillips Tract. The survey to measure the distance was done by the city after prompting by Fifth Ward Councilman John John.
Miller said the petitionners’ attorney, Philip Cronan, is looking into options for the Pierpont residents, who live in a small area south of Columbia off Highway 163. She explained that in April, when the petition was being researched and prepared for filing, the Philips Tract was not yet a part Columbia. The residents wrote their proposal according to the city boundaries before the tract was annexed.
The county’s attorneys looked into
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the matter of filing dates. Miller said the petition to incorporate was filed on April 22, but the tract was annexed April 19. “Before the Phillips Tract, it (Pierpont) met the statute. We didn’t even think about it,” Miller said. She said Cronan may be looking for any statute or law that would allow Pierpont to incorporate anyway, because the petition was drawn up and the boundaries were measured before it was known that the Phillips Tract had been or would be annexed.
“We knew going in there would be some boundary concerns,” said John M. Nowell III, Pierpont resident and an advocate for incorporation. “This isn’t a news flash to anybody.”
Nowell said he thinks the emergence of this proximity issue has everything to do with city manager Ray Beck’s disapproval of the incorporation of Pierpont.
Beck has said in the past that he disapproved of the incorporation. He and other city officials said they feared a situation similar to that of St. Louis — that the city could no longer expand and grow its tax base due to the incorporation of surrounding municipalities.
Although Cronan is unclear on what the next step for the people of Pierpont will be, he said the proposed boundaries might be redrawn so that they would be more than two miles away from the city. But that would leave out some of the current petitioners, such as Nowell.
“We haven’t gotten down to the map,” Cronan said, “but we don’t think it (the smaller boundaries) will remove many people.”
Nowell estimates about a dozen or more homes, including his, might be affected.
But that doesn’t mean they would be left out for good. Joy Rissmiller said the residents of a new Pierpont Village could then annex residents such as Nowell into the incorporated village. The proximity rule in question would no longer apply because Pierpont, like Columbia, would have annexation rights.
As of Saturday, Miller said there was no meeting planned with the commission and the residents of Pierpont. If there are no options, there is no need for a meeting, Miller said. “If the principals want to have a meeting, we’ll have a meeting,” she said, referring to the men who started the incorporation petition drive.
Even if Pierpont cannot be incorporated, most of its residents are sure about one thing — they don’t want to be part of Columbia proper. The 48 of 54 residents who signed the petition to begin the process of incorporation say Columbia has nothing to offer them but the promise of increased taxes.
“We’re not giving up, I can tell you that,” Nowell said. “The jury’s still out. And there’s more than one way to skin a cat.”