After weeks of negotiations with neighbors, developer Billy Sapp filed an annexation and zoning request for 805 acres on Friday.
The request is his third effort to start developing the land he owns east of Columbia on both sides of Route WW. Two earlier requests were blocked by a group of neighbors known as the Harg-Area Residents for Responsible Growth, HARG, who say they have now come to tentative agreements with Sapp.
Sapp plans to eventually annex nearly 1,000 acres to accommodate a golf course, commercial development and 1,800 homes.
The Columbia City Council will likely hold a public hearing for the zoning and annexation June 6.
HARG spokeswoman Renee Richmond says that if Sapp, a Boone County official and a Columbia official sign an agreement that addresses their concerns, the group will not petition against the latest request. The agreement states that the two governing bodies and Sapp will combine efforts to widen Route WW and construct shoulders, turn lanes, traffic signals and sidewalks. It also asks Sapp to limit the number of homes to two units per acre and address the environmental impact on Grindstone Creek.
“Unless we all come to the table on this, we will do another petition,” Richmond said.
City and county officials have said the agreement is a reasonable guideline, but legal and procedural restrictions may stop them from signing it.
City Attorney Fred Boeckmann said he would not recommend that city officials sign. Bill Watkins, assistant city manger and interim planning director, agreed that it is unlikely he could legally sign, but will continue discussions with the county on how to improve Route WW.
“Limiting the number of houses per acre is really a land use and zoning issue and the city can’t contract with that type of thing,” Boeckmann said. “Cities can’t contract away their legislative authority.”
Skip Elkin, Boone County Northern District commissioner, said he is unsure if the county can enter into a written agreement. He advocated including the negotiations in Sapp’s development agreement with the city.
“Governments are very limited on the documents that we can sign,” he said. “We don’t typically enter into direct agreements with neighborhood associations. Usually issues such as traffic are addressed and made binding in the development agreement.”
Sapp also filed a development agreement and statement of intent for rezoning with his latest request. It is subject to approval by the City Council and could be modified. Sapp spokesman Don Stamper said some negotiations with HARG are included in the development agreement. Other agreements will be addressed in the statement HARG has asked Sapp and city and county officials to sign.