A round of applause signaled the birth of a village Wednesday night when the Boone County Commission voted unanimously to approve the incorporation of Pierpont.
The vote followed a public hearing during which Columbia Mayor Darwin Hindman, Pierpont residents and the commissioners debated the need for rational incorporation policy versus the right of residents to control their destiny. In the end, the people of Pierpont got their wish for protection against the possibility of annexation by Columbia.
“You’re on your own now,” said Presiding Commissioner Keith Schnarre after the commissioners took their vote.
Justin John, a resident and newly appointed trustee of the village of Pierpont, was happy to see six months of petitioning come to a close.
“I’m glad it’s over,” he said. “But now the responsibility is going to be up to us.”
The village of Pierpont includes 32 people, seven of whom showed up Wednesday to support the petition. By becoming a village, the residents believe they will preserve their way of life and avoid being annexed by the city against their will.
Earlier this year, city officials reached an agreement with the Missouri Department of Natural Resources to annex a part of Rock Bridge Memorial State Park, which abuts the newly formed village. Pierpont residents took this as a sign that the city’s southward expansion drive would soon knock on their doors. Columbia officials have repeatedly said the city has no such intentions.
Hindman and Columbia City Manager Ray Beck attended Wednesday’s meeting to express concerns about small towns and villages restricting the growth and potential “economic engine” of the city. In arguing for a consistent policy on allowing incorporation, Hindman used the example of St. Louis County, in which dozens of small municipalities lock in the state’s largest city. Saying that the city has no specific plans to annex Pierpont, Hindman made a case against rushing to approve any incorporation without consideration of its long-term impact.
“There’s really no reason to push too fast on this,” he said.
Columbia officials have expressed concerns about Pierpont’s incorporation ever since the county commission considered the residents’ first petition earlier this year. As one of the city’s last measures, Beck sent a letter to the commission calling for a policy on considering future incorporations.
Responding to the letter and to Hindman’s comments, Northern District Commissioner Skip Elkin expressed a willingness to discuss orderly growth with the city, but said this suggestion had been made before with little result. He also said this discussion would need to consider the city’s approach to annexation as well as the county’s policy on incorporation.
“It’s a two-way street,” Elkin said. “There has to be give and take on both sides.”
Before the meeting, Southern District Commissioner Karen Miller said commissioners would probably hold a work session to discuss the concerns raised in Beck’s letter. The meeting could happen early next year, she said.
John was not surprised that the commission approved Pierpont’s petition despite Hindman’s objections.
“I knew the more the city agitated, the more the county was going to be for us,” he said.
Before approving the petition, the commissioners selected John and four other Pierpont residents to serve as the village’s first trustees. Under state law, the board of trustees for a village is responsible for maintaining roads, organizing elections, adopting zoning regulations and enforcing building codes.
Patrick Cronan, the attorney for the residents, has said the residents will probably adopt the county’s zoning regulations and continue to use building codes from the Boone County Fire Protection District. For law enforcement, Pierpont will follow the example of Rocheport and arrange for voluntary protection from the county sheriff’s office.
The trustees plan to meet in December to discuss approving ordinances and service contracts with the county, John said.