Council OKs Bear Creek

Tuesday, February 8, 2005 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 9:11 p.m. CDT, Sunday, July 20, 2008

A rezoning request to make room for Bear Creek Village, touted as an environmentally conscious neighborhood, won the unanimous approval of the Columbia City Council on Monday night.

The owner of the land, Andrew Guti, and residents of the area, spoke favorably of the planned development at the meeting, describing the plans as the best way to build in this area.

“Because of its location within city limits, development here seems inevitable,” Guti said.

Bear Creek runs through the southwest corner of the 17-acre property along Northland Drive in northern Columbia. The developers plan an environmentally friendly subdivision featuring housing units close to one another to prevent sprawl and built with nontoxic, recyclable building materials and wood from quick-growth forests.

This housing formation will allow for protection and preservation of the existing prairie and native plants and wildlife, Guti said.

Solar power will also help make homes more energy efficient, said Michael Goldschmidt, associate professor of architectural studies at MU. A team of his students worked on design ideas for the buildings.

Residents of the area could do without cars, because the planned development lies along the city’s orange bus route. In addition, the Bear Creek Trail, which leads to Cosmo and Albert-Oakland parks, is within walking distance.

The planned styles of housing units are single-family cottages, town homes, lofts and small flats with lofts above them.

Developers also plan a commercial area with a market, coffeehouse and a community area with mail, laundry and meeting rooms, said Project Consultant Karl Kruse.

Guti said his family bought the property in 1988, and he inherited it from his mother 10 years later. He planned to sell the land, but his wife, Sherri DeRousse, disliked the prospective buyer’s plans for the property.

George Davis, who lives near the area at Northland Drive, initially had concerns about the development’s ability to handle storm-water runoff and sewage demands. After he spoke with Guti, however, Davis thought the plan could be a more reasonable type of development than anything he has seen for the area.

Jay Gebhardt, a local civil engineer who has been working with the land owners, said the site’s storm-water plan would be innovative for Columbia. He said that even without the plan, storm water and sewage already heads downstream from the proposed development, so they should not adversely affect neighbors.

All members of City Council approved the development plans, but a few did raise some issues.

Sixth Ward Councilman Brian Ash said he understood why developers want to build at a higher density. Doing so, however, could set a precedent that may not be appropriate for all future developments, Ash said.

Mayor Darwin Hindman, who said he was an enthusiastic supporter of the plan, responded by saying that these issues are judged on a case-by-case basis. In this instance, he thought building condensed housing units was justified.

Fifth Ward Councilman John John said that the proposed commercial area at Northland could bring a large amount of traffic into the neighborhood.

Ground-breaking for the development could begin before the end of the year, Guti said in a previous interview. .

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