Members of the Boone County Smart Growth Coalition met with the spokesman for developer Billy Sapp on Wednesday night to address environmental and infrastructure issues related to a proposed 1,800-home development east of Columbia.
The meeting came as the Columbia City Council awaits word on the validity of a petition to halt Sapp’s 1,000-acre annexation proposal.
Sapp spokesman Don Stamper told coalition members that growth issues were addressed early in the development’s planning process and noted that the proposal consists of significant amounts of green space.
“This will be one of the most pedestrian-friendly developments in the community,” he said.
Stamper also said Sapp’s plan will provide $1.5 million in off-site infrastructure improvements.
In terms of either endorsing or opposing the plan, coalition co-chair Ben Londeree said such a judgment would be premature for the coalition members. The Smart Growth Coalition is a group of 14 organizations throughout the city, including the Sierra Club and the League of Women Voters. The coalition’s total membership exceeds 1,000 people, co-chair Barbara Hoppe said.
Stamper presented details of the plan to annex and zone the property east of Columbia and on both sides of Route WW. The council is scheduled to vote on the proposal Monday, but a petition submitted by residents of the Harg area, who oppose the development, could derail that plan. The Boone County clerk’s office is reviewing the petition.
Stamper said the development was carefully planned to standards that are higher than those of the county, and said they would not build more than two units per acre.
“There has been a tremendous amount of misinformation by the opponents, who have refused to meet with us,” Stamper said before the meeting. He said Wednesday night presented an opportunity for coalition members to “hear our presentation and know how we are going to do this and what we are proposing to do.”
A desire for first-hand information seemed to be the inspiration to attend for most of the coalition members present.
“I’ve read a lot about what’s bad about (the development), but haven’t heard as much from the other side,” League of Women Voters representative Elaine Blodgett said.
Questions at the meeting covered school overcrowding, public transit accessibility and the use of herbicides on the proposed development’s golf course.
A presentation by opponents to Sapp’s proposal is scheduled for next month. “Tonight’s meeting is the first installment in a discussion of the development east of town,” Londeree said in an interview before the meeting.
While some people have the perception that the Smart Coalition is opposed to growth, Londeree said such a view is not accurate to the coalition as a whole.
“There may be members who are anti-growth, but the coalition is not,” Londeree said.
“In the final analysis, you have to get a compromise that the majority of people can live with,” he added.
Considerations in defining smart growth, Londeree said, include sprawl potential, environmental issues and the cost of development to the city, which could involve increased taxes.
Sapp’s development would be the largest voluntary annexation in Columbia’s history and would include a golf course and surrounding commercial and residential developments.
Development designs include single-family homes, golf cottages and townhouses. Stamper said the commercial areas of the development could include medical offices, lawyers’ offices and small stores.