COLUMBIA — The Richland Road annexation and rezoning request has dominated the discussion of future land use east of Columbia.
It has had a companion the entire time.
The Weiss property, the subject of an annexation and rezoning request for 21.9 acres of mixed-use development, has followed the same path through city government as the Richland Road request and also is up for a final vote from the City Council on Monday night. The request comes from Bette Weiss and her attorney, Thomas Schneider.
The proposed development of the 271-acre Richland Road property brought conflicting recommendations for how the council should vote. City staff has recommended the request be approved, but the Columbia Planning and Zoning Commission is advising the council to reject it. The request calls for a mix of residential and regional commercial development.
The Weiss property, however, thus far has no fans in city government. Both the commission and the city staff say it should be denied.
So, that should make it an easy decision for the council, right? Not necessarily.
“If City Council approves the Richland Road application as is, with that regional (commercial) center included, it’s going to be very hard for them to say no to Weiss,” planning commission chairman David Brodsky said.
The Weiss request features a maximum of 80,000 square feet of retail with a second component of 80,000 square feet of either office space or 75 villa-style residences. The Richland proposal, meanwhile, seeks permission for 440,000 square feet of retail space set on 100-plus acres. A maximum of 700 residences are proposed for the remaining land.
For context, a large supermarket is 40,000 square feet, and free-standing drugstores such as Walgreens are 11,000 to 15,000 square feet.
The original Weiss request was based on the assumption that the property would have access to an extension of Highway 740, also known as Stadium Boulevard. Plans call for that highway to run through the southeast corner of the property. The precise route hasn’t been determined, and the future of the estimated $39.2 million project is unknown.
City staff, in recommending the council deny the request, said the plan would overburden existing infrastructure and doesn’t match the area’s current conditions.
“It was predicated on a roadway unconstructed, and there was no guarantee of any access to their parcel,” said Pat Zenner, city development services manager. “Our recommendation out of the gate on that project had been disapproval.”
The commission in October 2009 advised the council to deny the proposal. Members felt the proposal should wait for the East Area Plan to be completed and hinged too much on Highway 740 expansion.
The East Area Plan, which will be up for first reading at Monday’s council meeting, is intended to provide guidelines for how the larger area east of Columbia should be developed.
Brodsky said he thinks it is premature to approve a project with such a large impact when there are “so many unknowns surrounding it.”
Thad Yonke, senior planner for Boone County, also said the Weiss request seems inappropriate.
“It was a piggyback,” Yonke said, noting that the Weiss request came right on the heels of the Richland proposal. “I don’t know that that request would have ever come in on its own if they hadn’t seen the, ‘Hey, look what’s happening’ gold rush.”