Residents opposed to a 1,000-acre development in their neighborhood east of Columbia presented estimates Tuesday of what they think the development would cost the city if it decides to annex the property.
Overall, the residents estimate that infrastructure improvements necessary to support the development of homes, stores, condominiums and a golf course will cost the city between $6 million and $7 million.
Billy Sapp, the property’s developer, has requested annexation to the city of Columbia so the development’s residents can receive city services such as sewers and police protection. Sapp has also proposed zoning changes to the city and Boone County officials to make his development legal.
The residents, who have formed a group called Harg Area for Responsible Growth to oppose the development, presented their findings Tuesday at a press conference.
But Columbia Mayor Darwin Hindman, when told of the resident’s estimates, had doubts about its relevance.
“I don’t think the estimate is meaningful,” Hindman said.
Hindman said an analysis such as this could not be accurate if it didn’t take into account possible revenue the city will gain from the annexation. He wasn’t sure if the cost number was reasonable because he said city workers are still doing an analysis.
Renee Richmond, the group’s coordinator, said it is important for such numbers to be out there. She said the city has not provided estimates on the cost of building necessary infrastructure or created an estimate of the tax revenue the city would gain from annexing the development.
“The citizens of Columbia need to be aware of what (Sapp’s) development will cost the city in infrastructure and services to be provided to those developments,” Richmond said.
But Hindman said it would be almost impossible to estimate the tax benefits because of the time it would take to have the development fully built and because of the ambiguous tax advantages of adding workers and consumers to the community by giving them places to live.
The residents’ numbers come from calculations by group member Dennis Bettenhausen, an engineer.
Bettenhausen said he arrived at the estimates by contacting numerous city and county officials to find out how much prior sewer expansions and road work have cost. Using maps of the proposed development, he then mathematically adjusted the costs of the previous work to fit the size and amount of work that would be done for this project.
“The (city and county) engineers provided me enough information for me to calculate — per foot — what the roads and other things cost,” Bettenhausen said.
He used a common example to explain his method.
“If you wanted to find out how much a loaf of bread cost and you knew that each slice cost 15 cents, you could figure out how much the loaf costs by adding the slices,” Bettenhausen said.
The estimate includes costs for road improvements, sewer lines and the possibility of the city extending a water line to the development.
Hindman questioned whether an estimate of taxpayer burden that included sewer infrastructure and water lines could be accurate.
The sewer and water system is not paid for by all taxpayers, just its users, Hindman said.
Currently, the annexation plan calls for water to come from a county water district, but Assistant City Manager Bill Watkins has previously said the city could extend a water line out to the development if need be.
Don Stamper, Sapp’s spokesman, could not be reached for comment Tuesday.
In a Nov. 1 letter to Watkins from Public Works Director Lowell Patterson, the city estimated that the development would cost the city $32,000 for every square mile of sewer maintenance in the development and $10,000 for every square mile of street maintenance.
The residents also used the press conference to reiterate their belief that Sapp’s property is not “compact and contiguous,” as required under Missouri law for annexation, and that it would create dangerous traffic levels on Route WW.
The group has created a Web site to oppose the development at www.hargcommunity.com.
It also introduced new concerns that Sapp’s estimate of two homes per acre is an incorrect estimate of the density because of the apartments and condominiums. The group said Sapp is making unreasonable requests to the city for sewer and road improvements that will cost taxpayers money.
Hindman said the city is more concerned with providing housing to new Columbia residents than in how a development will affect city finances.
“This community, whether it’s inside the city or outside the city, has to provide a place for these people to live,” Hindman said.