COLUMBIA — Although the city has a host of plans defining its future priorities, the City Council and the Planning and Development Department are moving forward with a comprehensive plan to help pull them together to better manage Columbia’s growth.
The fourth session of the Columbia City Council’s retreat in June focused on brainstorming a plan for managing growth in the smartest manner possible. Tim Teddy, director of the city’s Planning and Development Department, presented the findings of the session before the Boone County Smart Growth Coalition on Wednesday night.
The council and Teddy’s department are looking at starting a process of public education, which they hope will encourage residents to debate about the comprehensive plan, Teddy said.
“We’re here to provide technical advice, put examples out there and give our perspective as best we can, but we’re not going to plan the whole shooting match for the community,” Teddy said.
The city needs to overhaul zoning ordinances, consolidate existing plans and think toward the future, Teddy said. That will entail recruiting a task force to produce a report on growth management techniques that will be submitted to the Planning and Zoning Commission and the council.
The department has studied other cities’ approaches to growth management plans but will also send out a questionnaire to Columbia residents to get their opinions before the task force submits its report.
In order to complete a growth management plan, Planning and Development will need to project growth for the next 20 years, both in population and development projects. Teddy stressed the need for collaboration with Boone County in order to make accurate predictions of Columbia’s growth.
At the meeting, Third Ward Councilman Karl Skala expressed an interest in using the Natural Resources Inventory to aid the growth management predictions. The inventory is a joint project being planned between the city and MU that would provide aerial photographs accurate enough to determine the types of trees and terrain within the city, which would help the city make informed decisions in its growth plan.
Teddy also said one of the problems with growth management plans is that the initial projections are often not revisited. He said Columbia’s growth projections need to be reviewed every year.
“If we’re projecting growth, we don’t do it and just say, ‘Well, for the next 20 years, we’ve got our projection,’” Teddy said. “Each year we’re going to ‘truth it,’ so to speak, and say, ‘Well, we’re off projections or something is different from what we had projected.’ And you make the adjustments then.”
The closest thing Columbia has now to a growth management plan is the Metro 2020 report, released in 2001. However, it needs to be incorporated with the city’s other reports and plans including the recent visioning process, which solicited input from residents on Columbia’s overall future.
“It’s a problem because we have to have, I think, a single document, a single stop for citizens who want to know what is our growth and development policy, or our practices,” Teddy said. “So this first step is going to involve really compiling the comprehensive plan the way it ought to be. Not necessarily breaking new ground, but putting the Metro 2020 together with the transit master plan, with the major roadway plan, with the cultural plan.”
Citizens in attendance expressed varying concerns. In a response to a question about the department’s ability to implement a plan, Teddy said the department will be able to move forward with its existing resources. However, he said the department does not have the resources for the ordinance revisions that are needed to implement the plan. But Teddy doesn’t expect the department to have a comprehensive growth management plan for another two years.