Development to preserve natural beauty

Plans for Rock Quarry Road were approved after concessions were made to the environment.
Tuesday, June 5, 2007 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 5:07 p.m. CDT, Thursday, July 17, 2008

If you cruise south down Rock Quarry Road in the future, you’ll drive right past 25 new homes, but you might not even notice them.

Delta Roads Development LLC got the go-ahead from the Columbia City Council in a unanimous vote last night to proceed with plans for a 10.9-acre, multi-family housing development west of Rock Quarry Road. The developers’ amended proposal outlines several measures that will give the homes a natural feel, preserving native plant life nearby and extending the vegetative “buffer zone” between the new homes and the scenic street.

The council’s approval follows what Delta Roads spokesman Mark Farnen called a “long but very successful” meeting in which the company met with neighbors to clarify visions for overall setup of the housing development. Fourth Ward Councilman Jerry Wade and Sixth Ward Councilwoman Barbara Hoppe mediated the negotiations.

“Our discussions of the buffer and landscape took up a great deal of our conversation,” said Julie Youmans, president of the Rock Quarry Neighborhood Association. “We didn’t get to all the parts of the plan, but we feel a great deal of partnership and trust with the developers.”

Third Ward Councilman Karl Skala complimented the citizen-driven negotiation process.

“This is terrific,” Skala said. “This is the way it’s supposed to work.”

After hammering out details with neighbors, the Delta Roads group ultimately proposed a development with a “single-family residential quality” that will cater to families and residents who want to settle down for a while — a departure from Rolling Rock, an adjacent neighborhood that mainly houses college students.

Rock Quarry Neighborhood Association president Julie Youmans said Monday that neighbors had been worried about protecting the landscape along the sides of Rock Quarry Road, which was designated a Scenic Roadway in October 2002. Developers must preserve natural plant life in a “buffer zone” on both sides of a scenic roadway.

When Delta Roads first proposed the housing development in December 2006, they called for 32 one-, two-, and three-family housing units to be built, but an amended plan cut that number to 26. Last night’s approved proposal trims the final number to 25 homes and requires them to be built with varying roof lines and building setbacks, making them look like town homes rather than duplexes or mass housing units.

Farnen said developers will work with neighbors and the city arborist to save valuable old trees and to make sure landscaping stays true to the natural plant life in the area.

“We might have gone in to clean some of that up to make it look a little more park-like,” Farnen said. “The neighbors wanted it to be nice but a little more natural.”

Delta Roads also plans to organize a homeowner’s association not just for the new houses, but also for 56 homes in Rolling Rock. The association would dictate common rules for noise control and trash management, among other things.

“We support anything they can do to make the neighbors feel invested in having a nice neighborhood, because we’re the spokespeople for long-term residents who want to live there all their lives,” Youmans said.

By approving Delta Roads’s initial plan, the council has officially changed the land classification from agricultural to urban development.

Dan Simon, an attorney for Delta Roads, said that while the proposal binds the developers to their promises, the city council still must approve a final plan.

“It in no way lessens the discretion of the city council,” Simon said.

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