City of Ozark officials are considering a proposed 864-unit mixed-use development encompassing roughly 230 acres of vacant land.
The development, dubbed Marabella, would sit just north of the 5600 block of North Farmer Branch Road and east of the Ozark campus of James River Church. Marabella LLC, owned by Brad King, is the project developer. King, who also owns custom home building company King Built Properties LLC, plans to incorporate residential, commercial and recreational lots in the development, according to documents filed with the city by project engineer Great River Engineering.
City Administrator Steve Childers said the city first began discussions with King about the project over a year ago.
“It’s a very large project, if it comes to fruition,” Childers said of the development which calls for 714 single-family and 150 multifamily residential units.
The project’s master development plan also calls for an athletic complex and commercial village with 10 half-acre lots surrounding a central community center. Childers said King is proposing to annex the property, amend its zoning and create a planned unit development, which allows numerous land uses. Those can cover residential and commercial properties and amenities, such as pools, green spaces and recreational facilities.
The Ozark Planning and Zoning Commission reviewed the proposal at its Dec. 28 meeting, which included the developer’s annexation application encompassing all three parcels of Marabella, three planned unit development zoning amendment applications and the preliminary plat application for the two north parcels of the property, roughly 133 acres. All three parcels are currently zoned agricultural, and city officials say Marabella LLC owns one of the parcels, with the other two owed by Captain Taylor Family Land Holdings LLC. The commission unanimously recommended approval of the requests.
Childers stressed the development is still in the preliminary phase and no cost has been disclosed.
“Nothing’s been approved, and it did go through planning and zoning, which is really the first step. There’s still several outstanding infrastructure questions to be answered,” he said, citing water and sewer lines and road improvements by the developer.
Additionally, Childers said the preliminary plat has the proposed athletic facility as a commercial item, for which the city is yet to receive drawings.
The Ozark Board of Aldermen was originally set to review the proposal at its Jan. 17 meeting.
“Before the board was wanting to bring this large piece of property into the city and possibly approve all these plans, we were asked by the developer to table the annexation, preliminary plat and zoning requests,” Childers said.
King did not respond to messages seeking comment by press time. He is expected to bring the proposal to the Board of Aldermen at its Feb. 21 meeting. Childers said the delay gives King time to provide answers to the city’s questions, which could also allow staff an opportunity to research possible infrastructure incentives, if any will be sought.
Ozark School District officials are also keeping an eye on the proposed development. Superintendent Chris Bauman said school personnel regularly attend the Planning and Zoning meetings to stay abreast of residential projects under consideration.
Bauman said Newport Beach, California-based Zonda, a housing market research firm, completed a demographic study in January for the school district. The company tracked residential projects, including Marabella, and analyzed areas such as state enrollment trends, economic conditions and a housing overview. He said the study will help the district determine what facilities might need expansion or where new school buildings may need to be built.
According to the Zonda study, there are 330 lots available to build in the school district and roughly 1,520 lots in planning stages. That includes the Marabella development.
The district’s K-12 enrollment for the 2020-21 school year was 5,717, resulting in a five-year increase of 251 students, or 4.6% growth. Only 12 other school districts in the state, including Nixa, had larger growth, according to the study. Nixa gained 355 students over that period.
“You have to always try to get in front of it,” Bauman said of growth. “It takes us roughly 18 months to plan a building, get a building financed and get it built. When you’ve got growth that happens as quickly as it does here, you’ve got to be high-stepping to get out there. For us, planning becomes critical.”
Ozark officials report K-12 enrollment for the current school year is 5,947, a 4% year-over-year increase. Bauman calls the student growth over the past several years “manageable.”
“We’ve been growing at roughly a 2%-3% growth rate per year,” he said.
School officials say the district is on pace to complete a pair of building projects by August. DeWitt & Associates Inc. is general contractor for both the Tiger Paw Early Childhood Center and the Ozark Innovation Center. Both were designed by Esterly Schneider & Associates Inc. and approved by voters in 2020 via the district’s $26.5 million bond issue. Bauman said the projects are expected to finish with a $34 million price tag.
“Because of rising costs, the two projects went outside of $26 million,” he said, noting the district had to utilize lease-purchase financing for some of the work. “We were able to get all the financing we needed to get these projects completed.”
The school district in 2019 purchased a 170,000-square-foot vacant manufacturing building for the innovation center, which will provide career and technical education for high school students, as well as space for district offices.
Even as its two projects are yet to finish, the district is already eyeing future growth opportunities. Bauman said election ballot paperwork was submitted in January to the Christian County Clerk’s office for a $19 million bond issue to add storm shelters to the high school, middle school and early childhood center. The issue will appear before voters in April.
“That would give us storm shelters at all of our locations, because currently we don’t have that,” he said. “This bond is also going to help us gain some classroom space in those locations as well. Between those projects, we’re hoping to get at least five to six years down the road.”
Bauman said it’s too early to speculate Marabella’s impact on the school district.
“Clearly, a project that is bringing in 800 residences is going to make a difference,” he said. “We would want to make sure we’re providing the level of service and facilities that Ozark has come to expect from its school district.”
Childers said as the Marabella development may require at least a 10-year buildout, it’s important that city leaders be deliberate about project decisions.
“We want to make sure everything is going to be done right and that the full impact of that development is going to be well thought out. That’s where we are,” he said. “We have to really vet that very carefully.”
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