An annexation approval at Thursday night’s Planning and Zoning Commission meeting may leave residents of two mobile home parks out in the cold.
The commission voted to conditionally recommend annexation of Boone County property off U.S. 63. According to a city staff report, the land is approximately 20.75 acres and is zoned for moderate-density residential housing.
The land houses two mobile home parks, Sunset and Ed’s, totaling more than 100 homes. About a month before the meeting, the residents of these homes received two letters that explained the plans for annexation. One letter was from the city and the other was from Whirlwind Properties LLC, the company that owns the land.
The incorporation will likely bring city water, police support and public transportation to the area. Busing is of particular concern — two of the park’s residents have been killed in the past year crossing U.S. 63 on foot, said Ron Nettemeyer, managing partner of Whirlwind Properties.
“It would be a lot easier if we had a bus here,” said Christy Jordan, a 26-year-old resident of Sunset Park. She and many other tenants must walk a half-mile into the city to catch the nearest bus.
According to the staff report, the Columbia Police Department is opposed to the annexation because police don’t think they have the staff to police the added area, which has a large number of Boone County Sheriff’s Department calls.
At Thursday night’s meeting, Nettemeyer said most of the calls were categorized under “watch in progress,” meaning the Sheriff’s Department was monitoring and patrolling rather than responding to criminal activity. But this is the first time the Police Department has opposed the annexation of any property, city staff said.
Many questions have been raised about the future plans for the property as the proposed zoning is for a “planned business district.” If this zoning passes, the property will have the option of being used for future commercial development. This change is in compliance with the Metro 2020 Land Use Plan, which describes the city’s plans for future development in Columbia ideal future development of Columbia.
This zoning might mean that Whirlwind will develop or sell the land for commercial development, evicting the residents who live there, according to the staff report.
“We have to look to what the long-term best use is for this property,” Nettemeyer said, “It seems to make sense that at some point in the future this land might be used in some commercial way.”
But Nettemeyer said he had no plans right now to develop the property.
Some Sunset and Ed residents said eviction would be devastating.
“I don’t know what I would do,” Lydia Jefferson, 49, said. “How could I come up with money to have the mobile home moved? That’s expensive.”
Jefferson, a new tenant in Ed’s park, said she likes the neighborhood because she thinks it’s peaceful and quiet. Her fiance, Raymond Cheatum, 46, said he read the letters sent from the city and the owners but hadn’t realized that possible commercial development was involved in the annexation and rezoning.
“They’re telling you, but you’ve got to understand,” Cheatum said. “You’ve got to read between the lines.”
Many commission members agree that future zoning is what’s best for Columbia.
“I am supportive of this being commercial,” Michael Holden said.
But concerns were raised, ranging from impervious surface percentages to Nettemeyer and Whirlwind’s actual intentions with the land. All members present at the meeting who voted agreed to recommend the incorporation of the land if Nettemeyer sufficiently answers these questions to comply with city regulations.
But that may not offer much comfort to the parks’ residents.
Brejette Juniel, 28, said she is considering moving her family out of the park because of all of the rumors of eviction.
“We’ve decided we’d just move our trailer before that happens,” she said. “I really don’t think it’s a good idea. But, if they do decide to tear it down, there’s nothing we can do about it.”