COLUMBIA - The Planning and Zoning Commission Thursday night began deciding just how comprehensive they want the city’s growth management plan to be.
It was the first of many work sessions that will hammer out a document to guide the city’s future development. The first step is deciding what data—from population growth and residential units to rental space and public land—should be included and how to obtain it so it has a reference point for recommendations.
The desired result is a document that provides framework for city development ordinances and regulations, guidelines for planning review and infrastructure project planning.
“The criticism we always have in the planning profession is we come up with plans and they decorate bookshelves,” Planning and Development Director Tim Teddy said.
In an attempt to avoid another pretty binding on a bookshelf, the City Council will appoint a 15-member task force charged solely with helping to create the new document and garnering public support. In addition to assisting the Planning and Zoning Commission in crafting and reviewing the new document, the task force will be something of an “outreach arm,” Development Services Manager Patrick Zenner said.
The city does have existing growth plans, such as the Metro 2020, but that does not cover all areas associated with growth and was not well received by the community after its publication in 2001. It was almost “rejected out of the blocks” because it was just dropped on the community, Zenner said.
Teddy also stressed the need to create a readable document so people who aren’t zoning and development buffs can refer to the guidelines.
“The tendency of comprehensive plans in recent years is to scale them down and make them more accessible and less technical,” he said.
Most growing cities have comprehensive planning documents, Teddy said, but not all are up-to-date. Teddy said the cities with the most effective planning are those that update their data and objectives and hold themselves to an implementation schedule.
An outgrowth of the visioning process, the word ‘comprehensive’ is what distinguishes this effort from past plans such as the Metro 2020. Thursday’s commission session went over some of the areas already identified to establish a baseline of the existing conditions in the Columbia area, such as population growth, employment, building permit activity, commercial space, infrastructure, hospital inventory, etc. The commission members added some suggestions of their own — cemetery acreage, religious buildings and parking lots, for example.
They also have to define the planning area for future growth past the city limits.
Teddy said the hope is to finish the data-gathering portion of the project by the end of the fiscal year. With a baseline in place, the commission and city staff can begin drafting recommendations that they hope can guide Columbia’s development and lead to long-term planning.
“The plan’s the vision,” Zenner said. “The actual ordinances are the implementation.”