A developer’s unique zoning request could have lasting implications on how Boone County and the city of Columbia work together on issues of growth.
Billy Sapp, who is developing thousands of acres of homes, condominiums, shops and a golf course in the Harg community east of Columbia, would like his property to be annexed and receive city services. Sapp wants the city and the county to work together on zoning so the development is appropriately zoned in the county even if the city refuses to annex the area.
In a letter to city and county officials, Sapp requested joint meetings, where officials from both bodies would work together to re-zone the land. Sapp wants zoning that would allow for a hodge-podge of homes, condominiums and stores on land now designated as agricultural.
“We have recently seen the need for more cooperation in local planning initiatives and we agree with the efforts that have been made in that area,” Sapp wrote.
Boone County Southern District Commissioner Karen Miller said joint meetings will allow all residents of the area to be represented in decisions that could drastically alter where they live.
Miller said the plan could also serve as a model for approval of big projects in the future as the city continues to grow and develop on the city/county border.
Even so, legal requirements ensure cooperation will be partial at best.
“We can have all the meetings we want — we just can’t give away our authority,” Miller said of the legality of such a process.
And before any of this can happen, the plan must be approved by the Boone County Commission and the Columbia City Council.
Miller and Presiding Commissioner Keith Schnarre said the commission is behind such a proposal. City officials could not be reached for comment Wednesday afternoon.
Besides city approval, the development has another roadblock. A group of Harg area residents, led by Renee Richmond, oppose the annexation because they fear it will bring dangerous amounts of traffic to Route WW and change the rural feel of their neighborhood.
Richmond teamed up with about 50 neighbors to circulate a petition to delay or prevent the annexation.
Under Missouri law, a simple voluntary annexation could become a more complicated involuntary process if two percent of the city’s residents sign a petition against the annexation.
Involuntary annexation would require approval by a majority of Columbia voters. It would also require 15 percent of the annexed property to be contiguous to the city, which Sapp does not have.
Richmond said her group has over 1,000 of the about 1,500 signatures required to make it involuntary.
“I’m still wanting to have 2,000 or more,” Richmond said, indicating that neighbors would be out in force at public locations such as the Columbia post office during the holiday season.
Miller, however, said the success of such a process could set a precedent that would require expensive city-wide elections every time residents opposed annexations. Miller said the joint process proposed by Sapp would be a better way for county residents to voice their concerns through elected officials such as herself.
An informational meeting will be held tonight between city officials, the city’s planning and zoning commission, and Con-Agg, Sapp’s development company.