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Developers concerned about new council’s stance on growth

Skala and Wade have more conservative growth views than their predecessors.
Sunday, April 8, 2007 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 5:59 a.m. CDT, Friday, July 18, 2008

With Karl Skala and Jerry Wade joining Barbara Hoppe on the Columbia City Council, many foresee a new approach toward growth in Columbia that emphasizes planned development and environmental protection.

But although the recent winners of the Third Ward and Fourth Ward council election share some stances on development, they won’t always march in step.

Hoppe knows that they won’t agree 100 percent of the time, but she sees some similarities in the new members and herself.

“In terms of like-mindedness, I think the thing I share with Karl (Skala) and Jerry Wade is an interest in having a long-range development plan, protecting the environment and making sure we have infrastructure,” said Hoppe, the Sixth Ward councilwoman. “Planning is what we really have in common.”

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Jerry Wade

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Karl Skala

Ken Midkiff, conservation chair of the Osage chapter of the Sierra Club, hopes Skala and Wade will join Hoppe and Mayor Darwin Hindman, who was elected to a fifth three-year term, to push land-disturbance issues to the forefront.

“Both have concerns about the vast amount of land development in process and turning open space into more subdivisions,” Midkiff said. “Right now we don’t really have planned development. We have a plan to grow.”

Rex Campbell, who served as Fourth Ward councilman for 12 years, said the election of Skala and Wade has surely upset the business community.

“Jerry Wade feels strongly that there are major changes that need to be made in the city,” Campbell said. “But it takes four people to agree to get anything done. Hindman tends to be middle-of-the-road, and I don’t think he’d want to jump on this bandwagon right away. I’d be surprised if he does.”

Don Stamper, executive director of the Central Missouri Development Council, said he plans to “take a very close watch-and-see attitude” with regard to the new council members, who are replacing Bob Hutton and Jim Loveless in the Third and Fourth wards, respectively.

“Balance on the council is important, and I think we’ve lost some balance,” Stamper said.

Skala has grouped himself with Wade and Hoppe in broad terms of general stances on growth, favoring long-term planning, higher development fees and more attention to land-disturbance issues.

“This is not a voting coalition,” Skala said. “There’s no organized group of council members, just people with similar ideas.”

Wade said he does not want to be categorized under any particular label.

“We’re all independent thinkers,” Wade said. “As you watch it play out, there are areas where we will agree and those where we disagree. Our performance on the council is what will be the measure.”

Hoppe said what she noticed during her first year on the council were the different majorities that form around wide-ranging topics.

“There’s a whole variety of issues that come before the council,” Hoppe said. “Some are about development; many are not.”

Land-use attorney Craig Van Matre said the most foreseeable outcome of the election is longer council meetings when significant developments are proposed.

“We’re going to spend a lot more time talking about it,” Van Matre said. “Every proposal is going to turn into a philosophical discussion of growth versus no growth.”

Van Matre attributes this to Skala, who he says will be prone to “micromanagement” of issues. He also argues that Skala’s campaign of “growth management planning” is just code for “anti-growth.”

“If Karl Skala has his way, there is no growth,” Van Matre said.

Skala said that he is not anti-growth. Rather, he favors targeted growth.

“There are very few in this town that you could tag with the moniker ‘anti-growth,’” Skala said. “I just think (growth) ought to be well-planned.”

Campbell pointed to Boulder, Colo., and Portland, Ore., as examples of cities that pushed growth to other areas by placing too many restrictions on development.


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