Richland Road rezoning request drops large regional commercial center

BY Eric Holmberg

COLUMBIA — The major stumbling block for the City Council to approve the Richland Road rezoning request was removed late last week.

Robert Hollis, the attorney for the two development corporations behind the request, met with three City Council members last week and told First Ward Councilman Paul Sturtz on Friday morning that his client was going to withdraw 90 acres of commercial development, known as Tract 1, from the proposal.

The tract included 360,000 square feet of retail space alongside either 360,000 square feet of office space or 300 residences.

The amount of proposed retail space did not coincide with the East Area Plan, which will go before the council for a first reading Monday night. The East Area Plan is meant to be a guiding plan for development for the east side of Columbia.

The plan recommends “neighborhood nodes” that include 200,000 square feet of commercial development to serve the needs of the surrounding community.

The regional commercial development that had been proposed was one of the major reasons why the Planning and Zoning Commission voted to deny its recommendation 5-3 on Oct. 8, 2009, according to a previous Missourian article.

The proposal now includes four tracts, one commercial and three residential.  The commercial tract would have 80,000 square feet of retail space and the residential tracts could have a maximum of 700 residences.

Sturtz said he thought Hollis and developer David Atkins knew the original request was not going to be approved.

“I think they saw the writing on the wall,” Sturtz said.

Sturtz said he was likely to vote against the original plan, but now he’s not sure.

Third Ward Councilman Gary Kespohl, whose ward would include the Richland Road request area if annexed, said he had about a dozen residents in his office last Wednesday concerned about increased traffic and commercial development.

“It takes away some of the residents’ concerns which is always good to try and compromise,” he said.

Kespohl said he is now leaning toward voting for the plan.

Fourth Ward Councilman Daryl Dudley said the revised proposal looks viable and conforms with the East Area Plan.

Before the recent revision, the council planned to vote on the Richland Road request at Monday’s meeting. The council now has the option of not voting on the proposal at its meeting.

The meeting is at 7 p.m. in the City Council chambers at Eighth and Broadway.

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