Council to mull changes in rezoning, development plan procedure

Bill would eliminate duplicate public hearings on noncontroversial proposals
Saturday, January 31, 2009 | 7:53 p.m. CST; updated 10:26 p.m. CST, Saturday, January 31, 2009

COLUMBIA — Approval of noncontroversial rezoning requests and development plans will become a bit easier if the Columbia City Council approves a proposal to eliminate duplicate public hearings Monday night.

Existing procedures require two public hearings on all rezoning requests and development plans: one with the Planning and Zoning Commission and another with the City Council. Proponents of a streamlined process say the hearing before the council is unnecessary for proposals that spark little or no opposition.

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The Columbia City Council meets in its chambers on the fourth floor of the Daniel Boone Building, 701 E. Broadway. Monday's meeting begins at 7 p.m.

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The bill is backed by the Central Missouri Development Council.

“For things that aren’t controversial or (are) straightforward, there is a lot of duplication, and this gets rid of that,” said Development Council Director Don Stamper.

Rezoning requests and development plans will have to meet the following criteria before public hearings by the Columbia City Council are waived:

  • The Planning and Zoning Commission must approve the proposal with less than 25 percent of commissioners present voting against it.
  • The proposal must draw no spoken or written comments against it at the commission hearing.
  • The applicant must agree with the commission's recommendations.
  • There must be no protest petition filed with the city clerk.
  • The commission must recommend the proposal be placed on the City Council's consent agenda, which is reserved for routine matters that require no public discussion.

Any council member or resident can ask that items meeting those criteria nevertheless be placed on the council's old business agenda, which allows public comment. To do so, they must file a request with the city clerk before noon on the Wednesday before the council meeting when the matter is scheduled for a vote.

Planning and Zoning Commission Chairman Jeff Barrow strongly supports the bill. He argued that it increases the efficiency of government and promotes a balance of power.

"It's a way to streamline it," Barrow said. "It makes the Planning and Zoning Commission more important."

Although they support the bill, Barrow, Stamper and Fourth Ward Councilman Jerry Wade, a former Planning and Zoning Commission chairman, have some issues with it.

Both Wade and Stamper said the criteria for removing an item from the consent agenda is too subjective.

"(It) begins to undercut the intentions that the group had," Wade said.

Barrow said his only qualm is that government can become too efficient. When that happens, he said, residents must be more vigilant.

"What I'm wary of is that when you make government more efficient, you lose some citizen participation," Barrow said. "A steamroller is efficient, but it's no good when you are getting run over by it."

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