A 2,064-acre tract west of Joplin appears to be on its way toward major development.

It could be a real boon for the area if all goes as planned.

But Wildwood Ranch, the single-largest block of undeveloped prairie and timber in Southwest Missouri, straddles two counties — Jasper and Newton — that do not have county planning and zoning.

The area is getting curbs, streets, electrical lines and utilities, and its first house is under construction — with few restrictions in place.

James Pinjuv bought the land in December of 2005, and now with the new Downstream Casino opening its doors just a few miles away, we believe development will be imminent.

Pinjuv appears to have a plan that includes mega homes, townhomes and up to 3,500 single-family dwellings, not to mention commercial, manufacturing and industrial sites.

The property has been designated as an enhanced enterprise zone for the Joplin area, so the developer must meet certain criteria in order to qualify for tax incentives, and that provides some assurances for the public.

We have no reason to believe that Pinjuv’s plan isn’t sound. On the other hand, without planning and zoning, there are no controls.

Ultimately, we think the development will likely be annexed by the city of Joplin.

Meanwhile, rural residents should add Wildwood Ranch to the list of reasons why Newton and Jasper counties need planning and zoning.

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