Columbia subdivision plan moves ahead

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Many of the standing-room-only crowd went home disappointed after the Columbia Plan Commission voted Monday to recommend approval for a controversial proposed subdivision.

The plan calls for development with Community Unit Plan zoning exceptions directly north and abutting the Country Crossings subdivision between Route 3 and Centerville Road.

A similar plan was submitted for approval at the Jan. 20 commission meeting. It failed to pass with a 4-4 tie vote.

After over an hour of public input and several calls for order due to noise during deliberation, the plan commission voted 4-2 to approve recommendation of a revised plan, which also included amendments added during the meeting. Two commission members were absent.  

One of the main concerns during public input was traffic. Several residents of Country Crossings expressed apprehension about the increase in congestion and accidents at the intersection of Route 3 and Gilmore Lake Road, the only outlet road from the subdivision.

Other residents wondered about the effect of added traffic on Shadow Ridge and Clover Ridge, two streets that would connect to the proposed 150-lot residential development.

“There’s nothing we can do about that now,” said Scott Dunakey, Columbia’s Director of Community Development, explaining that any development in the area would have access to both subdivision streets.   

The other topic frequently discussed involved possible negative effects to current homeowners in the area.

Brian Thompson, who was associated with Country Crossings during its development, stated that the “city was adamant” about the current R-3 zoning in the area, which would be changed under the CUP in the proposed development. He also claimed the city’s original intent when the land was annexed was to keep residential density low.

“It’s not fair to these folks here who invested time and money and resources” to become part of the Country Crossings neighborhood, Thompson said, adding that if the plan goes through it would likely result in higher density, lower property value and smaller homes.

Dunakey responded to Thompson’s comments, clarifying that the annexation agreement had expired.

Marty Hubbard, the developer who proposed the plan, also addressed the crowd, saying “I’m not here to devalue anything.”

During commission deliberation, member Russel Horsley explained that the property “will be developed. The question now is how can we best regulate it?”

Horsley also mentioned  a net benefit with the proposed plan is the creation of an escrow account for future potential road outlets to Route 158 or Centerville Road from the subdivision.

Commission member Lauren Nobbe explained that “it’s a difficult situation because you can’t do one before you do the other,” Nobbe said, referring to the potential outlet road. “I use roads in the area a lot, and I understand why there are so many concerns about traffic,” she added, concluding that she could not “in good conscience” vote for the plan. 

The plan must now be revised to reflect nine amendments to the proposal before being considered by Columbia City Council at its Feb. 18 meeting.

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