The Columbia Planning and Zoning Commission on Thursday night recommended that the City Council approve the removal of the Cunningham Road extension from the city’s Major Roadway Plan.
Cunningham Road is about a half-mile long now and is classified as a neighborhood collector street. That means it is 30 feet wide with a five-foot sidewalk on one side, according to a document adopted by the City Council in 2002 titled "Rock Quarry Road Special Area Plan". The proposed extension would span the distance between Bray Avenue and Rollins Road and add an additional half-mile stretch.
Nearby residents have objected to the extension because most of it would run through Bonnie View Park, and a short section would also pass through Audubon Society property.
Bonnie View Park is undeveloped. The Columbia Parks and Recreation Commission's preferred plan for development does not include the Cunningham extension. That plan was approved by the Parks and Recreation Commission Commission in 2003, and the Planning Commission later recommended removing the street extension from the roadway plan.
The purpose of the extension would be to provide another north-south public access point for residents of the area and to improve neighborhood connectivity, according to the Planning Commission's agenda report for Thursday's meeting. The alternative recommended by the Bicycle and Pedestrian Commission is to build a trail that would provide a direct link to Rollins Road.
Members of the public spoke against the extension at the meeting.
Sarah Lang, of Westport Drive, read a letter from the Fairview neighborhood association, Rothwell neighborhood association and the president of Audubon society.
The letter, originally submitted to the City Council in 2005, requests that the Council remove the extension from the major roadway plan and Columbia Area Transportation Study Organization's plan. It also stated that with the donation of land to the city for the park, the road is obsolete, and that the extension of Cunningham Road would seriously limit its potential.
Lang was not opposed to the proposed bicycle and pedestrian trail, and said she looks forward to seeing how the Parks and Recreation Commission will develop the area.
Peter Yronwode, of Orchard Court, said he was concerned about wildlife in the area.
Yronwode described the vicinity as a “unique area that has the potential to be a real wildlife sanctuary in the middle of what may be a largely built-out corridor of the city.”
Yronwode said a collector road running through the area would be “disastrous." He was opposed to a bicycle trail, but agreed that it would be a compromise.
Joyce Hulett, of Bray Avenue, said she wanted the park to be left in a natural state. The land is “the perfect place for an outdoor classroom," as it is right behind Fairview Elementary School, Hulett said. Hulett helped develop the Rock Bridge Elementary School outdoor classroom.
The Planning Commission did not vote on the addition of the bicycle and pedestrian trail.