Despite a long and bitter public debate about the rezoning of the Philips farm, residents were silent Monday as the Columbia City Council unanimously approved the purchase of 77 acres of the 489-acre farm for development of a new city park.
The city will pay $1.3 million for the land and will accept developer Elvin Sapp’s donation of 63 additional acres, including 40-acre Bristol Lake.
Preliminary plans for the park include fishing holes, wildlife and picnic areas, and soccer fields. City Manager Ray Beck said negotiations are continuing between the city and Sue Crane to buy 320 acres across Gans Road, which would connect the park to Rock Bridge Memorial State Park.
Mike Hood, head of the Department of Parks and Recreation, said the process for developing a final plan for the park will be similar to that used to develop plans for Stephens Lake Park. That process lasted 18 months.
Hood said plans for the park, which will be named for A. Perry Philips, are on hold pending the results of the Crane negotiations. The park can be built before Sapp’s development, however.
Sapp’s development, which will cover the remaining 349 acres of the tract with a mix of residential, office and commercial uses, was at the center of a public debate for more than a year.
During that debate, residents have charged the city with conducting closed-door negotiations with Sapp and limiting public debate, something Mayor Darwin Hindman has denied.
Representatives from the Ozark Chapter of the Sierra Club and others also voiced concerns that runoff from the development could threaten water quality in the lake and Gans and Clear creeks, which flow near the property, as well as Rock Bridge State Park.
Peter Goode, the Missouri Department of Natural Resources’ permitting chief, said the department is still determining whether Bristol Lake qualifies as a “water of the state” and warrants state protection. The Missouri Clean Water Law defines “waters of the state” as bodies of water that flow through more than one person’s property.
State laws would supersede the council’s agreement with Sapp, which requires that he construct dry basins, wetlands, detention pounds and other “best management practices” to protect water quality on both his and the city’s property.
No one spoke for or against development of the Philips park at Monday’s meeting.
Sapp must file development and water-quality plans with the city for council approval before his development can move forward. His spokesman Mark Farnen said that the project is still in the preliminary planning stages and that it would be a while before Sapp applies for any permits.
“Mr. Sapp and his associates are talking to interested parties,” Farnen said. “Interest in this type of development will drive the overall timeline for this project.”