Columbia talks trail, subdivision

Pictured, from left, are Melissa Kaufman and then Lena Lang from Violence Prevention Center of Southwestern Illinois with Columbia Police Department Captain Jason Donjon and Ward III Alderman Gene Ebersohl with the proclamation naming October as Domestic Violence Awareness Month. “As citizens, we must make a commitment to reduce and eliminate domestic violence, to raise awareness of this crisis in our communities, to help survivors break free from the cycle of violence and to hold offenders accountable,” the proclamation read.  

The Columbia City Council met in regular session Monday night to discuss new and existing subdivisions.

Columbia Mayor Kevin Hutchinson was not in attendance due to a personal matter. Ward III Alderman Gene Ebersohl served as mayor pro tem.

The first subdivision item on the agenda was Gedern Village. Subdivision home owners association trustees met with city officials Oct. 1 to discuss a section of the GM&O Heritage Trail that has been a subject of contention in recent weeks.     

The Gedern Village HOA filed court documents Sept. 21 to prevent GCA Holdings LLC and Domex Properties Limited Partnership from transferring property adjacent to the subdivision to the City of Columbia.

The move was in response to the council voting at its Sept. 8 meeting to approve construction of a fence along a section of the GM&O Heritage Trail that goes through part of Gedern Village. 

The council’s action was prompted by a sign installed by Gedern Village HOA Trustees informing trail users they were entering a part of the trail that went through private property. The council voted to install a fence on the Gedern Village section of the trail to assuage concerns of residents and to prevent pedestrians from deviating from the trail and into Gedern residents’ yards.  

Discussion of the progress between the city and subdivision was moved to closed session, as one of the referenced parcels is considered city property. There was no action taken as a result of the closed session.

The city’s press release stated  that “while some outstanding issues remain between the parties, the city is optimistic they will be resolved to everyone’s satisfaction. In the interim, the HOA trustees confirmed the general public is welcome to use the trail segment running through Gedern Village,” adding that “trail patrons are asked to be respectful of the private property and remain on the trail through this segment.”

Ward IV Alderman Steve Holtkamp, who is also a Gedern Village resident, said that “progress is being made” and he feels that “there will be an agreement shortly.” He also confirmed that the HOA removed the sign in question after the meeting with the city.

He said that a small walkway bridge near the neighborhood on the GM&O trail is currently being reconstructed by private citizens with city assistance to “improve the safety of the ailing bridge.”

Hutchinson said that “the goal of the city, through its Explore Columbia Plan, has always been to provide a trail for the general public to use to enjoy Columbia’s parks and rich railroad history” and that he “could not be happier with the meeting held with the Gedern Village HOA Trustees.”  

The second subdivision up for discussion Timber Rock Estates, a planned redevelopment of the property previously occupied by Fairfield Golf Club.

The developer has requested annexation into the city as parts of the property are within unincorporated St. Clair and Monroe counties. The Columbia Plan Commission voted unanimously to recommend approval of an annexation agreement during its Sept. 14 meeting.

At Monday’s council meeting, Columbia Director of Community Development Scott Dunakey described the layout of the proposed subdivision. The property is along Columbia Quarry Road between Bluffside Road and Route 158. A concept plan shows an 82-lot layout. The annexation zoning would give the area an R-2 One-Family Dwelling District designation.

The council will vote on the annexation agreement during a future meeting.  

Dunakey also gave the council an update on the city-initiated move to change zoning on 12 properties near Columbia Public Library, Metter Park and Turner Hall, including the property formerly occupied by Upchurch Oil and Ready Mix Concrete, which is currently zoned as an I-1 Light Industrial District.

According to Dunakey’s report, the move would “prohibit future industrial development in the core area, where residential, commercial and public uses are preferred and appropriate.”

The Columbia Plan Commission voted to recommend zoning the 12 parcels as C-2 General Business District lots at its Sept. 14 meeting.    

In other business, a bid was accepted for Phase 1 of the Quarry Road resurfacing project to Hank’s Excavating in the amount of $947,941.35. The project had to be re-bid when all bids submitted earlier this year were above the expected budget for the project.

The meeting began with Ebersohl reading a proclamation making October Domestic Violence Awareness Month in Columbia.

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