Written by Heart Beat staff
"I am tired of developers destroying my town with their short-sighted greed."
COLUMBIA, Mo 1/21/14 (Beat Byte) -- A vacant, oddly-shaped wooded lot next to Stephens Lake Park favored as a nature area by parents, teachers, and children at nearby Walnut Creek Day School could become a 40-unit student apartment complex if plans to subdivide the lot move forward at tonight's Columbia City Council meeting.
Calling the 6.5 acre lot "a narrow strip of forest/riparian zone that is part of the troubled Hinkson Creek watershed," East Walnut Neighborhood Association member Andrea Kanevsky worries about the prospect of student apartments so close to Columbia's crown jewel of parks.
"There is only one access to the entirety of East Walnut east of Old 63," Kanevsky told the Heart Beat. East Walnut St., she added, has served mostly small, single family homes since the early 1960's. The far east end of Walnut Street is a narrow, unmarked dead end, with no sidewalks, curbs, gutters, or other subdivision amenities. It includes a bridge over Hinkson Creek "where I can see the steel rebar poking out from under the layers of asphalt," Kanevsky said.
Kanevsky and her neighbors have expressed concerns about the plan, known as the "Hoeper Subdivision," since last October, when Cherme Properties of Rocheport introduced it. "The City Council needs to hear from residents concerned about this development ASAP!" East Walnut Neighborhood Association member Stacy Morse informed members.
The lot could fall under a city ordinance requiring more than one street access, she explained. "This street access ordinance is designed to keep residents safe, ensure that emergency services can reach us; and disperse traffic when a large development goes in."
Though it passed muster with the Columbia Planning and Zoning Commission, City Council members held up the Hoeper subdivision after East Walnut Neighborhood Association member Lindsey Smith addressed the site access concerns at the Council's December 16 meeting.
But "the Hoeper subdivision does satisfy the minimum requirements" for access, community development director Tim Teddy explained in a staff report for tonight's meeting. "East Walnut meets the very minimum requirement to be considered a 'through street.'"
Approximately 51 units could be built on the site, but Teddy considers that "unlikely" because almost half the acreage is "undevelopable" for flood zone and other reasons.
Also unlikely: infrastructure improvements, even with new apartments. "All residential development along East Walnut could benefit from better connectivity, access, and circulation," Teddy wrote. "But only a large-scale replanning of the area would make that possible."
A Mizzou alum who says she is sympathetic to the needs of students and the potential for profits from student housing, Kanevsky objects to building apartments in locations without adequate infrastructure.
"I am tired of developers destroying my town with their short-sighted greed," she said.