COLUMBIA — The Columbia City Council voted unanimously Monday to annex 90.8 acres of land at the end of Smith Drive on the west side of Columbia.
Tompkins Homes and Development Inc. is looking to develop the property into a residential subdivision, Breckenridge Park, complete with 1.8 miles of trails and 48 of the 90 acres left as green space. Tompkins has the support of adjacent homeowners associations and the Columbia Planning and Zoning Commission.
The main point of contention and public comment, though, has centered on a Native American burial ground located on the site. According to a letter written to the commission by Michael O'Brien, a former professor of anthropology and former dean of the College of Arts and Science at MU, the burial mound appears to have been built between 400 A.D. and 750 A.D.
The developer has promised not to disturb the mound in any way, promising to treat it as a burial ground. When treated as graveyard, the developer would be subject to state statutes that regulate the handling of human remains, barring development within 50 feet of the burial site.
There are also plans to feature the burial ground with a placard and a nearby trail. Tim Crockett, of Crockett Engineering, a firm working with Tompkins, said he hopes the trail would allow Breckenridge residents to interact with such an important piece of the land's history.
"It will allow residents in the area to really understand what this mound in their neighborhood really is," Crockett said at a public hearing on Oct. 6, "and that they understand that they weren't the first residents of this piece of property, but rather a couple hundred years ago, there were other residents as well."
When asked why the development couldn’t be done without annexation, spokespeople for the developer responded that the annexation was necessary for access to city sewers.
Ian Thomas, councilman for the 4th ward, lauded the deal.
“Over a period of 12 months, three homeowners associations came together many times with the developers," Thomas said. "There was a very strong slice of good will on both sides to want to come out with an acceptable outcome."
The Missourian's John Sadler is working on an in-depth look at the burial mound.
Supervising editor is Elizabeth Brixey.