With public hearings subject to delays and a community petition to prevent annexation in the works, few things are certain about Billy Sapp’s proposed developments.
Two things are certain, though; a public hearing on the developments’ zoning will be held Thursday at the city’s Planning and Zoning Commission meeting, and the Columbia City Council will hold a Jan. 18 public hearing on the proposed annexation and zoning of the land, which if approved would mark the largest voluntary annexation in Columbia’s history.
In a report last week, city planners recommended approval of the permanent zoning requests for the nearly 1,000 acres of land located east of Columbia on the north and south sides of Route WW.
“The staff has spent a fair amount of time looking at the proposals, has done a lot of research on what the ground looks like,” said Bill Watkins, assistant city manager. “I’m hopeful that (the commission and City Council) would take a look at what staff’s written and give it a lot of credibility and weight.”
The Planning and Zoning Commission could make a recommendation to the City Council, though it’s possible the zoning request could be tabled. If all the hearings go as scheduled, the council could take final action Feb. 7.
Sapp has proposed a mix of residential and commercial uses for the land, including a 209-acre golf course. Although city planners have recommended approval of the entire request, they want to limit the types of commercial uses allowed.
“We thought that should be scaled down to C-1, which is more of a neighborhood type of commercial district,” said Chuck Bondra, a senior planner who will present the report at Thursday’s meeting.
In response to the report, the developer agreed to eliminate some commercial uses such as adult entertainment and auto dealerships, Sapp spokesman Don Stamper said.
A group of residents who live near the proposed developments is petitioning to stop the voluntary annexation. Harg Area Residents for Responsible Growth needs to collect signatures from 2 percent of qualified Columbia voters, about 1,500 people. Member Renee Richmond said the group has collected nearly 2,000 signatures and is continuing to gather support this weekend at the Columbia Public Library and the downtown post office.
Richmond said she wants to collect at least 2,500 signatures in case any are found to be invalid.
The petition is due 14 days after the first public hearing before the City Council. If a valid petition is turned in by the deadline, then the developer would have to begin the application process again and 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.
“We’re not trying to force an involuntary annexation,” Richmond said. “That is up to the City Council and Mr. Sapp whether they pursue that. But what we’d like to see is that it remain a county development because with a county development it would be less dense.”
Stamper, however, contends that the developments, which will have no more than an average of two units per acre, are not dense.