Land plans in Benton-Stephens neighborhood meet resistance

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COLUMBIA - The Benton-Stephens Community could get a new addition, but not everyone is happy about it.

The Planning and Zoning Commission voted 5-2 to rezone some land on Old Highway 63 between Amelia and McAlester Streets from residential to mixed-office. The issue now goes to the city council for consideration.

School of Service, or Access Arts, currently owns the land.  The executive director of the non-profit said they have been trying to sell the land for almost a decade.

"It's not of benefit to us is the main issue and as a non-profit, anything that's not an asset is a liability. We have to maintain that land and keep it safe and yet, it's not useable to us," Shawna Johnson said.

The land is currently zoned as R-1. This is the zoning code allowing the construction of a single-family, residential property. The re-zoning would turn the land into M-OF, or mixed office district, which allows non-residential construction.

Some residents voiced concerns at the meeting Thursday night, saying the building of a business will disrupt the residential community they have created. 

However, those are not the feelings of everyone in the community.

"There are already businesses that surround the Benton-Stephens neighborhood anyway, one more is not going to hurt especially when the designer of the place is using it for his personal business and he's taking into account how he can least affect the neighborhood," Sean Pringle said.

Pringle went on to say land is not an ideal spot for another residential property, which Johnson agrees with. 

Access Arts already has plans for the money if the sale goes through.

"We are going to pay off some of our debt, and actually if all goes as planned, we would be debt free which is really exciting and also, we'll be able to hire additional staff," Johnson said.

The decision about the re-zoning has not yet been finalized.