Hospital OK’d over protests
Neighbors unable to stop rezoning.
Published Tuesday, May 6, 2008
Despite the protests of nearly 50 residents opposing a proposed long-term acute-care hospital at Alfred Street and Old 63, the Columbia City Council voted 5-2 last night in favor of the project, deeming it an appropriate use for the land and compatible with the neighborhood.
Most of the neighbors’ concerns stemmed from Landmark Hospital Inc.’s request to rezone 5 acres from single-family residential to planned office for a 42-bed, 32,000-square-foot facility for patients who require long-term care but are not sick enough to stay in a hospital’s intensive care unit.
Proponents pointed out the need for the facility in Columbia, the numerous jobs and economic benefits of the project, as well as how the development will improve the site.
The nearby Country Club Estates Neighborhood Association said the project, which would be open continually, does not fit with the other uses of land in the area and would damage the character of their established neighborhood.
Bob Hutton, who spoke on behalf of his neighborhood, said allowing office or commercial use at the site would set the precedent for the 30 acres surrounding it to become commercial, which will encroach on residents.
"We’re not asking for a guarantee, we’re asking for a vision," Hutton said, adding that if the rezoning weren’t approved, the hospital would locate somewhere else in Columbia.
Council members agreed they would like to see a vision for the area, but most of them said that vision should include a more intensive use than residential.
First Ward Councilman Paul Sturtz said the area was "ripe" for development and has been an underutilized area that is well-suited for this kind of "infill" project. He also praised the development plan and the developer’s responsiveness to residents’ concerns, including commitments to install more landscaping and design the building to make it more residential in character.
Fourth Ward Councilman Jerry Wade said the area has changed since the neighborhood was developed in the 1950s and he considers it part of the central city. "I think of this as a possible extension of the Boone Hospital campus, and I think medical offices or buildings would act as a nice buffer for the neighborhood," Wade said.
He added that an adjacent lot east of the site, also owned by the Berry McAlester Estate, should remain residentially zoned to provide a buffer for the neighborhood.
Hutton said he believes the McAlester Estate has no intention of anything but commercial development and that this council can’t determine what will happen in the future. "Future councils will only see the adjacent zoning, not the reasons for it," Hutton said.
Third Ward Councilman Karl Skala and Sixth Ward Councilwoman Barbara Hoppe, both of whom voted against the project, said they disagree that the property should be a commercial or office use.
"This is largely about the philosophical context of what zoning is all about, and it’s a protection for land owners and developers," Skala said. "This is really a property rights issue, but you aren’t entitled to any other zoning than what exists when you purchase the land."
Hoppe suggested that Highway 63 and Stadium Boulevard, the site of the recently denied Crosscreek Center project, might be a more suitable place for the hospital.
Second Ward Councilman Chris Janku said that, looking at the quality of the plan, he didn’t believe arguments that it would hurt property values. "I recognize the neighbors’ concerns with the domino effect," Janku said. "But at some point, we’re going to have to be accepting of some things changing. And at some point, we have to in order to get the benefit for the community."
Reach Kat Hughes at (573) 815-1713 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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