COLUMBIA — An outcry from residents during a public hearing on Thursday night persuaded the Columbia Planning and Zoning Commission to table a plan for a major development, which would include an automobile dealership at Stadium Boulevard and U.S. 63.
Plans by Stadium 63 Properties LLC, owned by Dave Dunafon, John States and Kevin Kearns, called for not only the car lot and accompanying automotive business on the land, which is already zoned for planned commercial use, but also for restaurants, banks and other retail businesses. The development would be called the “Crosscreek Center.”
The 74.4-acre property, which lies immediately east of the dead end of Stadium Boulevard, is bisected by Grindstone Creek, where it forks north and south.
Because the developers had already reached an agreement with the city under which car lots were prohibited on the land, they returned to seek permission for the change of plans.
“We’re finally making progress and we want to keep going,” said Bruce Beckett, the representative of Stadium 63 Properties. Beckett argued that the development plan follows modern safety and development regulations.
But the proximity of a potential automobile dealership to the creek prompted protests from residents worried about the health of the stream, which they feared would be compromised by runoff and pollution from the car lot.
Ken Midkiff, of Osage Chapter of the Sierra Club, commented during the public hearing that the presence of an impervious ground surface would result in a quick runoff of rain water, which would subsequently drain any chemicals that leaked from used cars on the lot into Grindstone Creek.
“There are lots of conceptual options,” Midkiff said, urging the Planning and Zoning Commission to allow for more time to explore alternative solutions to a car dealership.
City staff in a report to the commission recommended the request be approved, saying the property was a perfectly appropriate place for a car dealership, which they argued would actually generate less traffic than many other uses, such as more restaurants or hotels.
Concerned residents complained that a car dealership would be an ugly use of property at a major entrance to the city.
“The site is already ugly,” Midkiff said, “A used car lot would only add to the ugliness.”
Yet residents of the area understand that the fast-paced growth Columbia is experiencing has obvious side effects and not all are bad.
“We aren’t trying to oppose progress,” said Gregg Suhler, the president of Timberhill Neighborhood Association. “We’re just trying to have it thought out.”
Suhler agreed that the development of the property was an understandable side effect of the Columbia’s growth, but complained that the residents around the property in question did not have enough time to discuss the matter of the car lot and possible alternatives.
The majority of commissioners agreed with Suhler.
Jeffrey Barrow, the president of the Planning and Zoning Commission, agreed that the neighborhood residents needed more time to negotiate with the developers. “Apparently the car dealership has not been wanted since 2004 and 2006,” Barrow said. Barrow further argued that the development plan needs to be discussed in more detail between the developers and the residents in order to come to a more agreeable conclusion for both.
The commission will reconvene Jan. 10 to discuss a revised proposal for the Crosscreek Center.