Southern Springs annexation continues to divide residents – Columbia Daily Herald

The proposed Southern Springs annexation, which would bring 138 additional homes to the Del Webb subdivision, continues to divide residents after being reintroduced to the city’s nonvoting Municipal Planning Commission on Monday.

The item has been a subject of controversy since it was first introduced in December of 2020. It has since been deferred multiple times and undergone several updates. If the annexation were to move forward, the 52.7-acre parcel located off Denning Lane would raise the number of Southern Springs homes up to nearly 1,000.

The annexation, which would require final approval by the Board of Mayor and Aldermen, is only the first step. The land is currently zoned for agriculture and would require an additional rezone approval, also by the BOMA, prior to any preliminary plat or site plan review.

Since its introduction, many Southern Springs residents have spoken out against the proposed annexation, claiming that developer Pulte Homes has not fulfilled several of its obligations. This includes building an adequate amenities center capable of serving all residents, as well as a dog park and a “tots park” for kids. There are also concerns regarding street paving along multiple residential roads and the need to construct a second entrance for traffic and emergency vehicle access.

“My street still is not paved, and I’m still awaiting sewer repairs before they can even make an attempt to pave the street,” said Michael O’Brien, a Southern Springs resident. “Being in former law enforcement, the fact that we don’t have a second entrance today distresses me. If there is some kind of casualty on Southern Springs road, we won’t have access to get in and out of that facility, which is just not safe in my opinion.”

O’Brien added that he believes some Pulte employees have responded with a lack of concern about residents’ complaints.  

Some residents say Pulte appears to be more focused on building new houses, rather than sticking to the original development plans that were promised to incoming residents.

“When we came here, we were told the community would be 602, and it’s now over 800,” said James Harper, one of Southern Springs’ first residents who moved to the area in 2017. “Throughout the history of Southern Springs, Pulte has proven to be dishonest and disrespectful to our residents. They’ve promised, promoted to us and advertised a great many things that have been months, or years, late in happening, and in some cases haven’t happened at all.”

During Spring Hill planning staff’s review of the item, planning director Calvin Abram said there have been “a numerous amount” of additional emails received that were not in support of the annexation.

Other residents spoke in favor of the proposal, stating that designating the area for the Southern Springs age 55-and-up model would actually be beneficial for the neighborhood. The land is currently up for sale and could be purchased for many other types of development. By securing it for Southern Springs, it could prevent approvals of other developments like multi-family homes, retail developments or other “non-senior type” structures, some residents said.

“Stopping annexation is not in the best interest of the community, first because this area isn’t going to stop developing,” said Ken McNabb, a Southern Springs resident and former chair of its grounds and landscaping committee. “The owner of the land has agreed to sell, and so we know it’s on the market. The pressure to develop this tract is enormous and significant, and what comes in that area if Pulte is not the developer will probably not be a 55-plus development community.”

The concerns, according to McNabb, include the extra traffic generated by single-family homes compared to 55-plus communities, as well as an increase in the amount of children riding skateboards and bicycles along the sidewalks, potentially disrupting the “retirement community” feel that was intended.

The annexation would also provide additional revenue for the Home Owners Association budget, which would make things like proper amenities more feasible to purchase and complete.

“Such close proximity of two different neighborhoods with different lifestyles might make for complications,” McNabb said. “Annexation will provide additional residents that will provide a positive impact on our HOA budget, and provide us with new friends and neighbors that desire a similar lifestyle.”

Another Southern Springs resident, Cheryl Alderman, was also in favor of the annexation, saying that the opposition is mainly coming from a “small group that has been very vocal” and isn’t necessarily the viewpoint of the majority.

“Somebody is going to buy that land, and the governing bodies of Spring Hill see it as a residential neighborhood area of the future. The biggest threat to Southern Springs is that another developer other than Pulte is going to buy up that land,” Alderman said.

Others stressed the best solution is finding ways of working together, rather than arguing over a difference of opinion.

This was a point planning commissioner and former alderman Jonathan Duda agreed, emphasizing finding common ground would be the best solution.

“It’s a story that is told over and over in different subdivisions in the city, and the story does not end well when people don’t work together, coalesce around the end goal, and the end goal is your own community, your own destiny,” Duda said. “The comments were well said, and well taken … but please have patience.”

Duda added that developing a subdivision like Southern Springs can often create differences of opinion, but the important thing to remember is that “these are still your neighbors.”

“Please, for residents one neighbor to another, understand you are going to have differing opinions,” Duda said. “The people that step up in HOAs, they become the biggest targets, and yet they are your neighbors. Understand that without those people, HOAs just do not thrive.”

The planning commission will revisit the annexation proposal during its regular voting meeting at 5:30 p.m. Monday, June 14.