Neighborhood associations give residents a voice

There are about 60 neighborhood associations recognized by Columbia.
Tuesday, August 2, 2005 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 10:22 p.m. CDT, Saturday, July 19, 2008

A mile east of Columbia, at the end of what was once a winding gravel road, lies a quiet, country neighborhood filled with history.

Since 1955, Shepherd Hills neighborhood, a 40-acre area that includes a 10-acre park, is a place where 14 families have lived and enjoyed a rural lifestyle. Despite rampant development and the construction of U.S. 63, residents say the only thing that has really changed is the traffic, which can be burdensome during the peak hours of the day.

Timberhill Road is the main thoroughfare through Shepherd Hills and the namesake for the Columbia’s newest neighborhood association. The City Council officially recognized the group at its July 5 meeting.

Columbia’s population is six times larger than it was 40 years ago, and developments are constantly springing up throughout the city. Today, there are about 60 neighborhood associations in Columbia. Although neighborhood associations form for various reasons, they often seek more cooperation from developers when annexations or developments occur nearby.

Gary Kass and Vicki Carstens, who are husband and wife, are two officers of the Timberhill group. They said the group decided to become official so that the city would inform them about issues affecting the neighborhood.

At City Council meetings, representatives of neighborhood associations frequently offer input or opposition to developments near their neighborhoods.

Sixth Ward Councilman Brian Ash encourages neighborhoods to form associations, saying it opens up “the communication pipeline between the city and neighborhoods.”

“If neighborhoods take the extra step to become an association, the city rewards them,” Ash said. “They get advanced notice about any city business affecting them.”

Kass, president of the group, said Ash urged the group to become a neighborhood association when it opposed a proposal to extend Stadium Boulevard to Interstate 70 near Lake of the Woods Road. If and when that project happens, Stadium will be extended immediately east and south of their neighborhood.

“The proposals to extend Stadium are pushed by the city and developers. This is another issue we will have to address,” said Doris Littrell, a Shepherd Hills resident since 1991. “There are a lot of things we have to address, and that’s what’s good about a neighborhood association. They can help protect the integrity of the neighborhood.”

Leroy Sharp, a resident since 1977, said some members fought the decision to become a neighborhood association, but he thinks “it’s a great move.”

“We are now identified with the city, and it puts us in a great situation,” Sharp said.

Long before the Timberhill Road Neighborhood Association was formed, the Shepherd Hills Improvement Association served as a group where residents could discuss issues.

Littrell said she moved to Shepherd Hills because it was quiet yet convenient. “When they built these houses, it was out in the county, out of the city limits, out in the country,” she said. “But it was just a few minutes from the university.”

Lonetta Johnson, who moved to the area in 1960, said residents adamantly opposed annexation by the city for years but finally succumbed in 1969. “We still don’t really have city amenities,” Johnson said. “We have our own well, and the water is absolutely wonderful. Each family has their own lagoon. We didn’t have (city) garbage pickup until a couple of years ago.”

Sharp said Kass and Carstens and other newer families want to add city amenities such as sewer service. Most longtime residents, however, have resisted because they are accustomed to the rural lifestyle.

All residents agreed that their main concern is the traffic that could result from the golf course and residential development planned by Billy Sapp. Sapp has already had more than 800 acres along Route WW annexed and is seeking annexation of another 161 acres. Kass said the association will keep a watchful eye on the development.

“The Sapp development will have a huge impact on us,” Littrell said. “We will need a stop light out here. Right now, at rush hour, you can’t turn left to get to town. Now think about houses out here in future.”

Littrell said she expects more annexations. Just east of the neighborhood lies a 100-acre horse farm with fields and open land. She said if that farm were ever sold and developed, the atmosphere could drastically change.

Columbia neighborhood specialist Bill Cantin serves as the coordinator for neighborhood associations. When a new group forms, Cantin often attends groups’ meetings to help them get started. He said residents must be sure to distinguish between a neighborhood association, a group recognized by the city that creates separate bylaws, and a homeowners association, a group commonly formed upon the establishment of a neighborhood by property owners.

“Newer subdivisions typically have homeowners’ associations, but that’s not part of the city’s neighborhood recognition policy,” Cantin said. “A neighborhood must apply and be recognized by the City Council.”

Cantin said he has a bylaws template for associations to form, making it fairly easy for neighborhoods to apply. Ash said more Columbia groups need to be proactive in forming neighborhood associations.

“Associations generally form more reactively,” Ash said. “Neighborhoods usually wait until an issue already affects them. But it would be better a lot of the time to be prepared and have an association in place.”

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