Neighborhood Negotiations with Developers
March 20, 2016
I am often asked "What is the biggest political issue in Columbia?" and my answer is always the same - new development.
Within that broad topic, there are numerous "touchpoints" for conflict between a landowner/developer and adjacent neighborhood property owners:
- Traffic impacts
- Property value impacts
- Owner-occupied versus rentals?
- Strain on existing infrastructure
- Paying for new infrastructure
- Preserving open space
If the developer has the zoning he/she needs, neighbors have very little leverage. However, if the developer wants to do something different and obtain a re-zoning, then the City Council (and, by extension, the community) has a lot of leverage. This creates an opportunity for the developer and the neighborhood (with the involvement of their City Council representative) to negotiate an outcome that benefits everyone. I believe this is one of the most important roles a local elected official can play in this community and, with that in mind, I have been working hard for several months to help both sides reach an "all-win" solution in the case of a proposed development in the Fourth Ward.
The property in question is currently owned by the Columbia Lutheran Association, that wants to sell it. The 12-acre parcel is bordered by Ridgemont Avenue, the Ridgefield Road cul-de-sac, and a loop of the County House Branch Creek. Residents of several adjacent streets and neighborhoods have lobbied the City to buy it as a park and have raised some money themsleves. However, that is very unlikley to happen partly because it does not qualify as a high priority for the Parks and Rec. Department due to an abundance of parks in the area. With that option essentially off the table, development firm Pate-Jones now has a contract to buy the property, pending approval of its development plan.
The land is zoned "R-1," meaning Pate-Jones is allowed to develop the property with single-family lots, each of which must be a minimum of 7,000 square feet - accounting for internal streets, it may be possible for them to build a 40-50 home subdivision. However, an alternative design may be preferable for both Pate-Jones and a majority of nearby residents - namely, to leave about half the property in public open space (the County House Branch Trail runs along this southern and eastern edge) and develop a cluster of smaller, less expensive homes, for which there may be stronger market demand, on the other half.
I want to take this opportunity to congratulate Kim Kraus, President of the Ridgefield Park Association, and Tim Crockett with Crockett Engineering, who is representing Pate-Jones. Both Kim and Tim have worked very hard with their respective constituencies to find common ground and negotiate specific details including the exact number of smaller homes, the use of covenants to prevent or reduce the likelihood of the homes becoming rentals, and whether Ridgefield Road is connected. I have acted as a convener and worked to ensure everyone has access to accurate information about the process and the governing rules.
A final agreement has not yet been reached, but I am hopeful that this fair and transparent negotiating process will come to a positive conclusion and serve as a model for future infill development proposals.
Ian Thomas for Fourth Ward
My work on behalf of neighbors and developers demonstrates my balanced approach to community development. This is in contrast to my election opponent, Daryl Dudley, who has been generously supported by "Big Development" in three election cycles and who was a reliable "Yes" vote for any development proposal that came up during his three years on City Council, 2010-2013.
More seriously, local media have uncovered evidence that Daryl may have sought to conceal his campaign contributions. Check out the following recent news stories:
- ABC-17 News: City council candidate files large campaign donations out of time limit
- Columbia Missourian: Dudley to return misreported campaign contributions, pull ads
- Columbia Daily Tribune: Columbia City Council contender Dudley files late reports on $60,000 in donations
As a result of these findings, I am filing an official complaint with the Missouri Ethics Commission.
Honesty and transparency are a hallmark of my service on City Council and my re-election campaign. Please check out my policy platform, like my Facebook page for updates on my campaign and, if you are a Fourth Ward resident, I would appreciate your vote on April 5th.
Finally, I am proud to have received endorsements from several highly-respected Fourth Ward residents - check them out at my web site.