Residents of a northern Ozark subdivision don’t like it, but they will be getting some new neighbors.
The Ozark Board of Aldermen voted 6-0 to approve the preliminary plat for what is set to become Northtown Park, a subdivision off of state Route NN and Melton Road. It could one day hold up to 98 houses.
One of the best arguments against the development is about access. To get into their subdivision, residents of Northtown Park will have to drive through the neighboring Grand Haven subdivision, and will make at least four different turns at intersections before they reach the entrance to Northtown Park.
“The logic to me to have an existing subdivision piggybacked to another subdivision using that subdivision’s entrance for the amount of homes that are going to be built defies logic and isn’t fair,” Alderman Heather Alder said at a meeting Nov. 4.
Yet, Alder voted in favor of the plat. As Alderman Jason Shaffer pointed out, the developer did everything required by law to plan the housing development, and then some.
“Basically, we have a situation where we have a developer who wants to take his time and his money and invest it in our community. He’s met those standards that we have set for him. By law, we have to allow him to develop his property,” Shaffer said.
Grand Haven has a clubhouse with a swimming pool and a children’s playground just south of its entrance off of Melton Road. Nonesuch amenities are planned for Northtown Park, which Grand Haven residents pointed out a public hearing on Oct. 21. Those quality of life concerns, however, were deemed to be unjustified under Ozark ordinances. Northtown Park will be a more affordable subdivision than Grand Haven, with lower-priced houses.
“We do need affordable housing, we need more of that, and he has gone above and beyond the requirements of a developer,” Shaffer said.
However, Shaffer went on to say that some of the concerns that the residents of the neighboring Grand Haven subdivision brought forth had some legitimacy. He worked with developer Steve Johnson and with Ozark City Attorney Amanda Callaway to develop a set of seven additional conditions for development that Johnson agreed to meet.
Alderman Bruce Galloway is one of two Ozark aldermen who work professionally as attorneys. He admitted that he spent a good deal of time researching ways he could legally vote down the Northtown Park development.
“I have dug deeply to find a legal argument to reject the plat, and I thought I was on the right trail,” Galloway said. “I came up zeroes.”
Galloway pressed to find more significant measures of review Ozark could take. He looked for technicalities with the drawing of the plat, which he deemed to be drawn correctly and adequately.
Galloway said that if Ozark denied the preliminary plat for Northtown Park, it would set up the city to be the defendant in an expensive lawsuit that it would handily lose.
Galloway agreed to the seven additional conditions for development that Shaffer proposed at the meeting Nov. 4. Construction traffic, save for a few pieces of heavy equipment in the early days of development, will not be allowed to pass through Grand Haven. “Children at play” signs and other traffic control devices will be installed in the neighborhood, the Ozark police will conduct extra patrols, and traffic studies will be performed to evaluate Northtown Park’s impact on traffic as its phases of development proceed.
“It’s better than nothing,” Galloway said. “It’s the most that we could do.”
The Ozark Board of Aldermen’s 6-0 vote of approval for the housing developed surprised Mayor Rick Gardner.
“I didn’t expect that,” Gardner said.
The mayor pledged to review Ozark’s ordinances on platting, and also to review ordinances on the procedures for planning and zoning hearings.
Ozark City Administrator Steve Childers offered a narrative explaining that property development is planned over three key phases: annexation, zoning and subdivision platting, and that the Ozark Board of Aldermen has more latitude in the zoning phase of a development than it does in the platting phase.
“We want to have a good process that represents everyone equally, fairly and responsibly coming into the city of Ozark,” Childers said. “The city is continuing to review our own processes, and we’ve even taken the steps—this year, some of you may not know this—to improve things.”
Eventually, Ozark could vote in measures to stiffen its development codes.
“If there is not enough in that code, then we need to make sure we get the checks and balances in that code to where everybody has an evaluation that they feel comfortable with and it’s fair for all of those involved,” Childers said.