City officials will once again table a developer’s requests to rezone land along Green Meadows Road to accommodate a plan to build townhouses and villas on the property.
A news release from the office of City Manager Ray Beck confirmed that the Columbia City Council will not hold public hearings on the requests, though they were scheduled to be held tonight.
Don Stohldrier, the would-be developer of the land, asked that the council postpone the hearing because at least one council member will be absent from the meeting.
In a related matter, Beck said protest petitions filed by residents of surrounding neighborhoods would not be considered because they had been filed too late. The petitions, if accepted, would have required that a super-majority of the council, or five members, vote in favor of the requests for them to win approval.
Nita Brooks, president of the Trailridge and Greenbriar neighborhood associations, filed the protest petitions Wednesday.
The next day, City Councilor Fred Boeckmann notified Stohldrier’s attorney that the petitions were filed late according to regulations in the city code.
Petitions must be filed by 5 p.m. on the Wednesday before a scheduled public hearing. Because today’s meeting is a continuation of an Aug. 2 hearing, Boeckmann judged the petitions invalid, according to a Sept. 2 e-mail sent to Dan Simon, the developer’s lawyer.
“A strict reading of the ordinance supports my opinion,” Boeckmann wrote. “I believe the deadline established is reasonable and that strict enforcement of it will lend certainty to the process.”
Brooks was upset by Boeckmann’s decision because she thinks she was caught on a technicality.
“There was no substantive public hearing on Aug. 2,” she said.
Public comment at the Aug. 2 hearing was immediately closed and the rezoning requests were tabled because neither the developer nor representatives of the neighborhoods were in attendance.
Members of the neighborhood groups did not attend, Brooks said, because Stohldrier notified them before the hearing that the requests would be tabled. She assumed this meant the deadline for filing petitions would be postponed.
In addition to meeting the filing deadline, a valid petition must contain signatures from at least 30 percent of the property owners within a 185-foot radius of the land in question.
According to a Sept. 2 memo from Chuck Bondra, interim director of the Columbia Department of Planning and Development, Brooks’ petitions satisfied the requirement.
If accepted, a protest petition requires the support of two-thirds of the council for approval of the proposed zoning amendment.
Gulf Coast has proposed building as many as 68 single-family homes on the properties, including two gated communities. The homes would be constructed at a higher density than the current residential zoning allows.
The developer and the neighborhood associations have been negotiating plans for the land since a meeting of the Columbia Planning and Zoning Commission on June 8.