Public hearings are scheduled for January and February for the annexation of the 1,000 acres east of Columbia that Billy Sapp plans to develop.
Earlier this month, Sapp resubmitted his application to annex the land, and the city declared the application valid. The resubmitted application includes a more detailed description of the area where land borders the city. In the fall, the city asked the developer to identify this area in his application, Sapp spokesman Don Stamper said.
The hearings create a tighter deadline for Harg Area Residents for Responsible Growth, a group of Harg residents. To stop the annexation, it has to obtain signatures from 2 percent of Columbia’s qualified voters, about 1,500 people. The group has collected about 1,000 signatures and hopes to collect another 1,000, member Willis Richmond said.
The first public hearing is set for the Planning and Zoning Commission meeting on Jan. 6. If the commission does not table the issue, there will be another public hearing at the Jan. 18 City Council meeting. The council could then take final action on the annexation Feb. 7.
The petition to stop the annexation is due 14 days after the first public hearing before the City Council, said Bill Watkins, assistant city manager.
If a valid petition is turned in by the deadline, then the developer would have to seek involuntary annexation. However, the standards for involuntary annexation require that 15 percent of the land border the city, a guideline that Sapp does not meet.
“Two percent of the qualified voters would kill this project,” Watkins said. “I personally don’t think that’s fair, even if the proposal is good or not good. It seems to me the threshold for killing a project should be higher than 2 percent.”
Sapp spokesman Don Stamper said the development will continue even if the petition succeeds.
“We have strategies we can evaluate to keep the project moving forward,” Stamper said. “It doesn’t stop the project.”
Stamper said the residents who oppose the annexation are a small group that is trying to take the issue out of City Council’s hands. Richmond said Columbia residents aren’t aware of the infrastructure costs for sewers and roads that the city’s taxpayers would take on with the annexation. But Watkins said Columbia is only paying for the extension of Rolling Hill Road, while Sapp is paying $1.5 million for road improvements.
Richmond said the group would prefer less dense housing that maintains the integrity of the community. Although the development would increase his property value, it’s more relevant that it would increase his property taxes, Richmond said.
“I didn’t buy my house so I could sell it. I bought it so I could retire here, raise my grandkids here,” Richmond said.
Stamper said a total of about 1,800 homes, ranging from condominiums to single-family homes to golf cottages, will be built on the two developments. The developments also will have a 209-acre golf course and commercial buildings.