By Vicki Brown
CAMDENTON — Pinnacle Pointe Development will have to wait another month before moving ahead with planned residential communities on former Windermere Baptist Conference Center property.
Camden County Planning and Zoning commissioners delayed action on a request to change zoning on 1,005 acres from P-2 Commercial Park to R-1 Residential following a public hearing on April 16.
The Missouri Baptist Convention claims 943 of those acres belong to Missouri Baptists.
As part of a 2006 debt restructuring plan to cover the conference center’s Wilderness Creek expansion, Windermere transferred 943 acres of its 1,300 acres to National City Bank of Cincinnati in late 2005. The bank sold the property to Windermere Development Company Inc., owned by William R. Jester of Springfield. Jester also owns Pinnacle Pointe Development.
The MBC filed a lawsuit in Camden County on Nov. 1, 2006, seeking to stop all land transactions at Windermere pending the outcome of legal action the convention had taken against five formerly-affiliated institutions, including the conference center, in Cole County in 2002.
In its Camden County suit, the convention also has requested an injunction to prohibit Jester from financing and beginning construction on the property.
The MBC filed legal action against Windermere, The Baptist Home, Missouri Baptist University, the Missouri Baptist Foundation and Word&Way after the five entities changed their corporate charters in 2000 and 2001 to allow each institution to elect its own trustees.
At the planning and zoning hearing, director Chris Hall noted Pinnacle Point’s acreage is surrounded residential and agricultural use land. The area contains some P-2 commercial park zoning, but about 85 percent of the land is zoned R1, he said. Hall recommended commissioners approve the request.
The commission had received a letter from MBC lead attorney Michael Whitehead informing commissioners that the convention will appeal Cole County Circuit Court Judge Richard Callahan’s March 4 decision that Windermere had acted legally when it changed its charter.
“It’s my feeling that it [the appeal] doesn’t affect the request,” Hall said.
Pinnacle Point plans to develop the area in phases, Chad Sayre, an engineer with Allstate Consultants of Columbia, explained in his presentation. All infrastructure, such as fire protection, water treatment and sewage processing, will be included in the plan.
“We anticipate a lot of oversight by the commission throughout the development,” he said. “It will not happen overnight.”
Despite assurances that the area would be protected, several citizens spoke against the proposal during the public hearing, citing environmental concerns.
Doug Pluth, engineering manager for the Galva-Foam Docks Division of Shoremaster and a 15-year lake resident, presented a list of controls he would like to see put into place before the area is developed. Among his requests are a single entrance, litter control, a site buffer and structures limited to 30 feet in height.
Residents want to keep the area’s “park-like atmosphere,” he said. “Now is the time to place controls on development” for road safety and wildlife protection.
Ron Ohmes, who lives at the entrance to Windermere Cove, expressed appreciation for the conference center but also is concerned about the development’s impact.
“Windermere Conference Center is a good neighbor, and they do good work…. I hope they continue their work for many years…, but we would just as soon nothing change,” he said.
Development “is not just affecting the neighbors…. The fact is there are not many areas like this left in the lake area…. Use your stewardship to keep it,” Ohmes told commissioners.
Several citizens characterized the effect of logging that took place last year as making the area resemble “a war zone.”
“If that’s the way they are going to start, how bad will it be later?” queried 30-year resident Steve Moffitt.
Sayers pointed out that Pinnacle Point had no part in the logging operation. Center president and chief executive officer Dan Bench clarified that controlled logging was done at the recommendation of a retired forester. Jester allowed the logging company to finish the contract.
Longtime resident Estelle Foust suggested the commissioners consider rezoning a smaller portion of the acreage instead of the entire 1,005 acres.
“We have hundreds of thousands of acres of R1 now or soon will be,” Commissioner George Casey said. “Throwing in 1,000 more might not be in the best interest of the citizens of Camden County.”
Commissioners will seek an attorney’s advice on the legal issues surrounding the property. They plan to decide the zoning issue at their next meeting, set for 5:30 p.m. May 21 at the Camden County Courthouse.