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Development conflict shadows race

Sixth Ward City Council candidates trade charges about stances on growth.
Thursday, March 30, 2006 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 1:32 a.m. CST, Tuesday, February 24, 2009

 

Barbara Hoppe says her previous calls for “planned growth” and a moratorium on development of the Philips tract do not mean she is anti-development, but Valerie Barnes, her opponent in the Sixth Ward race for Columbia City Council, begs to differ.

 

While Barnes has faced scrutiny concerning her potential conflicts because of financial interests in the Philips tract, which will be developed as Bristol Lake, she said Hoppe’s previous positions and her work with groups such as the Boone County Smart Growth Coalition foreshadow how she would approach development as a councilwoman.

 

“For me, the issues with a potential conflict of interest are clear cut,” Barnes said of having to rescue herself from votes on developments in which she would have a financial stake. “Her’s is not quite as black and white, but I’m not sure she could completely put aside a preconceived mind-set.”

 

Hoppe is a founding member of the Smart Growth Coalition, which occasionally has come to loggerheads with developers and city officials about the impact of storm runoff and the best way to pay for infrastructure made necessary by development.

 

In 2003, when the annexation and zoning of the 489-acre Philips’ farm was being debated, Hoppe sent an e-mail to city government on behalf of the Smart Growth Coalition calling for the city to bring in an outside expert to review the storm water plan that was put together by a consultant who was hired by the property’s developers. Hoppe said that move was less an attempt to block the developers and more a tactic to persuade city leaders to hire an outside expert to look over the developer’s storm water plans.

 

“It was more symbolic than anything else because we asked for an expert to come in and review (developer Elvin Sapp’s) plan,” Hoppe said. “In reality, our goal was to make sure the city got input from an independent expert, and they got that when they brought in CH2M Hill.”

 

After a lengthy study, CH2M Hill determined the developers’ plans reflected adequate controls on runoff into Gans and Clear creeks. Both are part of the

 

Little Bonne Femme watershed, which is protected by the state.

 

Barnes, who is Sapp’s daughter and who holds a 10 percent interest in Bristol Lake LLC, said that either way, the action taken by Hoppe and Smart Growth speaks for itself. She cited the call for a moratorium as part of a history of Hoppe opposing development.

 

“If her intent has not been to stop development entirely, it has at the very least been to slow it down,” she said.

 

Barnes said she recalled attending a forum at which Hoppe said she had supported a 2002 call by Ken Midkiff of the Sierra Club for a moratorium on development in the Hinkson Creek watershed, which encompasses much of Columbia. Midkiff argued at the time that the moratorium was necessary because Hinkson Creek is a federally designated impaired waterway and because the cause of its pollution was unknown.

 

Hoppe, who lives along Hinkson Creek and is president of the Hinkson Creek Valley Neighborhood Association, said she never made such a comment at a forum and was more concerned at the time with forming stream teams and working with developers to prevent further damage to the creek.

 

“I know that I’ve never said that at a forum, and no one I know has ever confirmed that I said otherwise,” Hoppe said.

 

Midkiff backed her up, saying he called for the moratorium without the input of Hoppe or Smart Growth.

 

“At no point do I recall consulting with her, or with Boone County Smart Growth in calling for a moratorium, and I don’t know what her position on the matter was,” he said.

 

Hoppe said she supports development that enhances the city without leaving residents to foot the bill.

 

“We’re looking at how we can have growth take place and have it be advantageous in terms of looking at the costs associated with that growth and who ends up paying for those infrastructure costs,” Hoppe said.

 

Barnes said she shares that goal but doesn’t believe it requires numerous new restrictions.

 

“I think anyone would agree that keeping costs low is the final goal, but I don’t think that means putting numerous regulations in place in order to achieve it,” Barnes said.

 

Hoppe said her methods of dealing with development as a volunteer differ from methods she would employ on the council because she will no longer be an advocate for a sole interest. Instead, she said, as a councilwoman she will take into account the concerns of various stakeholders.

 

“As a volunteer I was trying to get increased citizen input in the process,” Hoppe said. “That input hopefully will result in a better outcome, and residents and businesses will have had the opportunity to have a say.”


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