COLUMBIA — After a five-year break, the Columbia and Boone County planning and zoning commissions have resumed joint meetings in order to coordinate a plan for the northeast urban fringe, where the new high school will be built.
After a run at joint planning several years ago eventually lapsed, the sessions have resumed within the past several weeks. This time they’re zeroing in on the area bordered by Interstate 70 on the south, Mexico Gravel Road to the north, Lake of the Woods Road to the west and a line about one mile east of Route Z.
Boone County Southern District Commissioner Karen Miller said the task is an important one.
“When a high school gets put into a residential area, land use changes,” Miller said. “A majority of the land we are looking at is farmland, but we know that will change. We want to pull together infrastructure plans, use what’s already in the area and plan for what will be needed for the new high school. We want to do our best to plan for the long-term.”
Tim Teddy, director of the city’s Planning and Development Department, outlined the group’s assignment.
“Major considerations of the commissions will include (analyzing) the scope of the planned assignment, existing land-use patterns, transportation needs and improvements, economic conditions, environmental characteristics, documented trends and patterns of change, and any planned improvements,” Teddy said.
Though previous attempts at joint planning fell by the wayside, members of the two commissions say they feel optimistic about the new round of joint meetings.
“The first meeting didn’t really have a task,” said Pat Smith, chairwoman of the Boone County Planning and Zoning Commission. “We were talking about a gross management plan, but the county commission suggested that we start with something else. It is much less of a hassle now that we have an assignment that both the county and city agree is a good assignment. This is keeping us focused on something.”
Others involved in the joint planning, including county senior land-use planner Thaddeus Yonke, said they felt positive about the recent meetings, too.
“It can’t hurt to have the two bodies meeting and discussing. The city can learn the perspective of the county and vice versa. A lot of people assume that the rules under which they operate are more universal than they actually are. It’s good to see where each (commission is) coming from,” Yonke said.
Although the most recent meetings have been relatively productive, the two commissions still face large obstacles. Smith said two barriers are the different zoning and land-use regulations in city and county jurisdictions and the challenge of finding a time when the more than 20 voluntary commission members can meet.
“The meetings require a lot of effort to schedule,” he said. “Speaking for the city Planning and Zoning Commission, it has a full plate of meetings and special work sessions in addition to joint planning meetings.”
The two commissions will meet again April 5 and hope to assign more tasks to members on that date. The aim of the two commissions is to meet once a month.
“The two planning and zoning commissions are sitting down and trying to work on things jointly,” Yonke said. “If they can talk together, find out where each one’s perspective is and find a common ground, they might be able to build something that works together.”