Richland Road request unanimously recommended by P&Z

BY Eric Holmberg

COLUMBIA — Third time’s the charm. The revised 181-acre Richland Road annexation and rezoning request received a unanimous positive recommendation from the Columbia Planning and Zoning Commission on Thursday night for the first time in three meetings.

The Richland Road request includes one 17-acre tract of commercial development with a maximum of 80,000 square feet of retail space, known as Tract 2. It will also have 164 acres with a maximum of 700 residences across land designated as Tracts 3, 4 and 5.

Tract 1, which was removed from the request Oct. 18, included 90 acres of commercial development and 360,000 square feet of retail space alongside either 360,000 square feet of office space or 300 residences. The commission cited Tract 1 as one of its major concerns in its most recent 5-3 rejection of the request on Oct. 8, 2009.

The request comes primarily from developer David Atkins and his attorney Robert Hollis. The land is located on the south side of Richland Road near the intersection of Grace Lane and the future location of the Rolling Hills Road extension.

The commission unanimously recommended the request with three amendments:

  • A land disturbance permit will not be issued until the development site plan is approved
  • Development on land with a slope of 15 percent or greater will be prohibited
  • The developer will provide land for a trail on Tract 4 along the north fork of Grindstone Creek similar to the agreement on Tract 5

The first amendment requires the developer to design the tract with the location of residences, roadways and landscaping in mind before breaking ground.

In preparation for Thursday’s meeting, the developer and city staff had already reached an agreement on the first two amendments. But there was no agreement among the planning commissioners.

The steep slope amendment was voted on separately after vigorous debate and won by a 4-3 margin. Commissioners Jeffrey Barrow, Ann Peters, Bill Tillotson and Chairman David Brodsky voted for the amendment. The three commissioners in opposition were Ray Puri, Stephen Reichlin and Matthew Vander Tuig.

Development services manager Pat Zenner said neighborhood roads cannot be built on slopes 10 percent or greater and major roads have a maximum 8 percent slope. The steep slope amendment would mainly affect areas along Grindstone Creek.

“The East Area Plan articulated the protection of steep slopes in the environmentally sensitive areas,” Zenner said. “This condition would be a mechanism to fulfill that.”

The debate centered on whether the topography would allow steep slope restrictions and not stifle development options.

“We are trying to legislate on the fly,” Reichlin said. “If an ordinance is going to be developed regarding what is appropriate in terms of development on steep slopes, it needs to go through an entirely different process.”

Barrow and Peters disagreed with Reichlin’s position.

“I appreciate that point of view in terms of process for developing ordinances, but that would be an argument for not having any of these conditions on here,” Barrow said, citing the trail amendment. “That’s just on this particular development because it’s specific to this land.”

“I believe Commissioner Barrow’s recommendation is in line with the East Area Plan, and that was a very public process,” Peters said. “I believe it honors the steep slope part of the East Area Plan.”

If the developer returns to the commission and concludes the amendment makes development economically unfeasible, then the commission could remove it from the agreement.

The commission and city staff will both send positive recommendations to the City Council when it considers the Richland Road request at its Dec. 5 meeting.

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