[Note: this story has been modified since its original posting. The location of Cedar Ridge Elementary School was incorrect in an earlier version of the accompany information graphic.]
It took months of negotiation by developer Billy Sapp, his Harg-area neighbors and city officials. But in the end, the Columbia City Council pushed through the city’s largest-ever voluntary annexation in less than an hour Tuesday night.
After no public opposition and few questions from council members, the council unanimously approved Sapp’s request to add 805 acres to the city.
“Even though it was long and painful, I believe the end result was a good thing,” said Sixth Ward Councilman Brian Ash, before casting his vote in favor of the proposal.
The approval means Sapp can go ahead with plans to build more than 1,500 homes, some commercial development and a golf course on property straddling both sides of Route WW, east of town.
The annexation dwarfs the 489 acres brought in with the annexation of the Philips farm in March.
Although smaller than Sapp’s original proposal of 965 acres, Tuesday’s annexation covers an area more than one and a half times bigger than Cosmopolitan Park. It will partially fill a gap of unincorporated land alongside the existing city limits. Portions of Columbia lying north of the proposed development already extend further east than the land Sapp wanted annexed.
Both sections of the development will contain single-family houses, duplexes and apartment buildings. In the northwestern section, homes will be located around the private golf course, with commercial property located on or near Route WW, according to plans submitted with the development agreement and annexation request.
Bruce Beckett, an attorney for Sapp, emphasized the benefits of the development in light of the city’s growth plan, known as Metro 2020. The plan calls for a neighborhood district with open green space in the area that was annexed.
“We think this affords the city with an opportunity to ensure that there’s a wide variety of housing,” Beckett said. “This is a perfect fit for the Metro 2020 plan.”
Before voting on the annexation, the council approved a development agreement between Sapp and the city. The 17-page document spells out obligations for both parties. It requires the city to extend Rolling Hills Road and a sewer line at a cost of $5.9 million.
The city and county might contribute to construction costs for shoulders on Route WW.
Sapp has agreed to pay for some roadwork and will donate easements for the sewer line, road expansions and future recreational trails. He will also give the city 18 acres for a neighborhood park.
Route WW, known as Broadway in Columbia, becomes a two-lane road without shoulders at some points as it passes rolling hills on its way to the small graveyard, country church and looming water tower that mark the site of the 19th-century settlement of Harg.
Members of a neighborhood group known as Harg-Area for Responsible Growth, or HARG, blocked two earlier attempts by Sapp to have land in the area annexed. By collecting hundreds of signatures from Columbia residents, HARG members prevented the City Council from voting on the annexation.
On June 29, HARG and Sapp signed a nonbinding statement of intent that addresses the group’s primary concern about safety along Route WW, among other issues.
Renee Richmond, who has been a vocal member of HARG, told the council her organization was satisfied with the resolution of the issue and asked council members to honor the group’s agreement with Sapp.
“We feel we have come to the best conclusion,” she said. “We will continue to monitor this situation.”
Sapp declined to comment on the vote. His spokesman, Don Stamper, acknowledged “stumbling blocks” along the way but said he was happy with the outcome.
“It’s important we got this concluded and moving forward,” he said.
Work will begin first on the sewer and then on the golf course, Stamper said, with housing construction to follow.
“You’ll see the first round of golf around mid-2007,” he said.
Missourian staff writer Rachel Kaatmann contributed to this report.