City Council and Planning Commission in need of a more comprehensive plan for Columbia’s future growth

Saturday, March 1, 2008 | 10:00 a.m. CST; updated 6:46 p.m. CDT, Monday, July 21, 2008

When it comes to growth and development issues, the City Council and the Columbia Planning and Zoning Commission are stumbling around in the dark. They have failed to work through the long term, overall implications of current development decisions.

As a result, plans proposed by developers that seem to work now are likely to result in inefficiencies, cross purposes and squandered opportunities down the line as development proceeds. What is lacking is a more fully articulated, comprehensive plan for the future development of the city. The current land use plan is hardly a plan. It identifies the areas of general urban development but fails to identify future neighborhoods and neighborhood facilities and to coordinate them with major traffic arterials. As a consequence, both the Planning Commission and the council are blind to the long term, general implications of current decisions of the sort that now confront the city in its consideration of a detailed development plan for the Crosscreek development at Stadium Boulevard and U.S. 63. It is as if a house is being built a room at a time with no idea of how the rooms will fit together after build-out.

The elements and context of the required process are clear. The city forecasts a population growth of 35,000 throughout the next 12 years. This will require roughly seven new elementary schools, seven new neighborhood parks, several new neighborhood or convenience scale shopping centers, several middle schools, another high school, roughly a thousand new acres of multifamily development, a couple of fire stations and possibly a branch library.

With a little foresight we could coordinate these future facilities with current and future major arterials. The Columbia Area Transportation Study Organization gives lip service to the need to coordinate roads and land use. But it can’t coordinate with plans that don’t exist. The Missouri Department of Transportation is currently preparing an Environmental Impact Statement on the roads in east Columbia. But since there are no articulated plans of land use and community facilities, the Transportation Department must do the best it can with the plans available; that is to say, it must decide on major arterial locations without regard to the future parks, schools, shopping centers, multifamily developments, fire protection, etc.

Without long-range, comprehensive and general plans to guide them, the council duplicates the Planning Commission’s work. Both bodies concern themselves only with short-term and detailed site planning considerations. This reverses the proper general-to-specific sequence in the review of development proposals. A site plan for the Crosscreek development, together with the location of the two bridges crossing Grindstone Creek, cannot be properly decided without making the decision as to whether the Stadium Boulevard extension will turn in a northeasterly or an easterly direction.

Approval of the Crosscreek site plan in its current form appears to foreclose any easterly extension of Stadium Boulevard and commits to an upgraded winding country road, WW, to run diagonally through the current assignment area of the local elementary school. The unexamined consequences include the following:

1. Forcing the vehicular transportation for a large number of elementary students

2. Dumping west-bound traffic from the future developed east side into the Broadway corridor and central business district

3. Limiting eastern access to the Lemone Industrial Park and the proposed Crosscreek to the southern arterial road, New Haven

4. Forgetting Kyoto, the energy saved in building construction will easily be expended in inefficient transportation.

Sid Sullivan is a Columbia resident who is running for a seat on the Boone County Commission.

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