The Columbia City Council ended six months of debate Monday night, approving 6-1 the annexation of a 118-acre tract east of Howard Orchard Road.
The measure had been tabled five times as city, county and Thornbrook subdivision residents ironed out an agreement with the developers. The decision, however, reaches beyond the unimproved gravel road, which neither the city nor county has any plans to improve, as the city again allowed development to continue without requiring road improvements.
“Based upon past history, it makes it difficult to oppose this,” Third Ward Councilman Bob Hutton said. “At some point, we have to stop, but I think this is a logical extension.”
Plans call for the construction of 170 single-family homes, creating a new Westbrook subdivision adjacent to Thornbrook. The first plat will go before the Columbia Planning and Zoning Commission at its Thursday meeting.
Some council concerns were assuaged by the development agreement, which was submitted in its final form before the Feb. 20 meeting. The agreement, a compromise between residential and planned zoning, makes the developers’ promises legally binding. The city has little control over developments with open residential zoning.
Skip Walther, the representative for developers Robert Conrad and Jim Frech, said development agreements are naturally challenging to create, especially when there are so many interested parties. City and county staff, Thornbrook residents, property owner George Wilson and the developers all participated in the process, Walther said.
“We were trying to balance those interests of the various people to come up with the fairest and most equitable way to develop this property,” Walther said. “I think we’ve done everything to listen to everyone who wanted to be heard and address in a professional way their concerns.”
To address resident traffic concerns, the agreement requires the developers to pay for an unlimited number of asphalt speed tables. Developers are also required to funnel construction traffic through Thornbrook’s designated construction entrance until a Howard Orchard entrance is created.
Contrary to original plans, developers must interconnect the separate plats within Westbrook to further decrease Thornbrook traffic under the agreement.
The Planning and Zoning Commission and Boone County Public Works Department have voiced opposition to the annexation, reasoning that any decision is premature before plans are made to improve Howard Orchard. Boone County commissioners have echoed these concerns. The developer will pay $25 per linear foot for Howard Orchard frontage to go toward future road improvements. However, the nominal amount will not cover much of the actual improvement costs, City Attorney Fred Boeckmann said.
Fifth Ward Councilwoman Laura Nauser, whose ward will include the new subdivision, was the only council member to vote against annexation. With Howard Orchard on one side and Scott Boulevard, which is also in need of repair, on the other, the council needed to take into consideration the larger picture, she said.
“We’re continually adding traffic to this inferior road,” Nauser said. “I have to agree with some of the comments and ask, ‘Where does it end?’’’
Stacy Bryant-Wimp, vice president of the Thornbrook Homeowners Association, agreed.
“We would like to see that land developed, and they would do a good job of it,” she said. “But we’d like to see it when there are adequate roads there.”
Mayor Darwin Hindman and other council members admitted traffic would logically come through Thornbrook. But in the future, as western Columbia continues to expand, that won’t be the case, Fourth Ward Councilman Jim Loveless said.
“I think in time you will see Howard Orchard Road develop as a major collector,” Loveless said. “But it won’t happen soon.”