Tax Dollars Tied Up in Blocked Development Connector

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COLUMBIA - It's a bustling shopping market that always seems packed, now more than ever after the addition of another Hy-Vee grocery story.

"It would be better for everybody if traffic flows easily in that area, safer for everybody," Craig Van Matre, Kroenke Group Attorney, said.

The Kroenke Group got city council approval nearly six years ago for a TDD, or Transportation Development District, to raise money to build an access road which would ease traffic with tax dollars.

"Its primary function was to connect Conley Rd. to Business Loop 70 East. I think keeping traffic off Interstate 70 for people coming from the east side of town there is good for everybody," Van Matre said.

Well not quite everybody, the pending construction has a major, nearly 90-year-old block in the way.

"They actually need to cut across part of our property and it affects some of our golf holes," Jean Leonatti, Columbia Country Club President, said.

The Columbia Country Club stands planted right in the path of that road connection, stopping construction and tying up tax dollars. The Kroenke Group's extension would take out nearly two acres at the back of the golf course, eliminating parts of four different holes and calling for major reconstruction.

"This was a concern to us, but we eventually took the approach that we need to have a negotiation and be talking to each other, and see if there's a way that we can both meet the goals that we have in mind," Leonatti said.

The development's TDD would not only pay for the road construction but also the golf course's reconstruction. Right now it's funding a golf course architect to draw up a solution.

"The solution is to come up with a design that the golf course approves of and that works. I think we've got that, but the trouble is we don't know what it's going to cost," Van Matre said.

Another obstacle? The environmental impact. With Hinkson Creek running right through the project, groups like the EPA, DNR and Sierra Club are getting involved. While this project seems to find a roadblock at every turn, The Kroenke Group still insists the road should be built.

"Why are we fighting this, I suppose the answer is it's the right thing to do," Van Matre said.

Both sides finally seem to be on the same team.

"We all seem to be moving in a pretty positive direction at this point in time," Leonatti said.

A direction that could lead to safer roads and a more shopper friendly marketplace. Van Matre said they plan for construction to start in September of 2012. So far the TDD funds for the Conley development have mostly gone toward water quality efforts and storm water run-off.