COLUMBIA — Stadium Boulevard could likely be extended eastward to connect with Interstate 70 sometime in the next several years. If and when it happens, the area east of Columbia would see growth. City and county planning officials want to start planning now.
The City of Columbia and Boone County planning and zoning commissions will kick off the planning process Tuesday night with the first in a series of public meetings. The groups are billing Tuesday's session as a "stakeholder information meeting" intended to gather public opinion about future land use in the area. The East Columbia Area Plan will study environmental issues, city service needs, roadway capacity and rules for possible land use in anticipation of future development.
The area in question is mostly undeveloped and not yet part of Columbia. The plan will cover roughly 21 square miles bounded by I-70, U.S. 63, East New Haven Road and Rangeline Road. An extended Stadium Boulevard currently exists only as a dotted line on planning maps and is based on an environmental impact study completed by the Missouri Department of Transportation in May. The study laid out a 400-foot-wide swath where the proposed Stadium expressway could be built.
At least one landowner, Richland Road Properties, LLC, has already asked to have its property annexed into the city with zoning for a large commercial and residential development along the extension's proposed route. Plans for the 271-acre property were first heard by the Planning and Zoning Commission in late October 2008. After almost a year of back-and-forth between the commission and the developers, the City Council voted to table the annexation on Nov. 2.
Several council members cited the lack of a comprehensive study as a reason to postpone action on the request.
Columbia Planning and Zoning Chairman Jeff Barrow said plans for the area prompted the council to request the East Columbia Area Plan.
"(The Stadium Boulevard extension) and then this kind of far-sighted development proposal were a warning shot for City Council to look at this area and see how it's all going to fit," Barrow said.
City Council members first requested the area plan in late 2008. When the council debated the Richland Road annexation on Nov. 2, several council members expressed frustration that the study process had taken so long to get started. Barrow thinks the study will likely be completed by April or May of 2010, but officially there isn't a deadline.
"We're just starting the process, and we need to talk to the people that live out there before we get an idea of timeline," Barrow said.
Pat Zenner, Columbia development services manager, said that despite the slow pace, now is the time to study the impact and potential pitfalls of extensive development.
"A plan needs to start somewhere," Zenner said. "The opportunity is now when we don't have rapid development."
Jeff Barrow said Tuesday's meeting is intended to answer people's questions, receive input and to dispel myths about what development in the area will mean. The planning process, said Barrow, inevitably raises concerns about annexation and taxes among residents in an affected area.
"In my experience, when people hear of a process like this, their worst fear arises. But their fear isn't based on what's actually happening," Barrow said. "The important thing is to get all those fears out and then identify the real fears and deal with those points."
Zenner emphasized that the process won't set policy, but he said it will serve as a guide for future decisions. "This is not an annexation situation," Zenner said. "This is planning for the future before the future is there."
He said the planning process is important both for residents of the area and for developers. "We believe this is where we will see growth starting to head toward," he said. "The development industry needs better guidance than what they have today."
The East Columbia Area Plan is the second large-scale area plan conducted jointly between city and county officials. The Northeast Columbia Area Plan was completed in October and addressed a large area north of I-70 and east of Lake of the Woods Road near the site of a proposed new Columbia public high school.
The East Columbia Area Plan public information meeting will be held from 5:30 to 8 p.m. Tuesday at the Old Hawthorne Golf Course Club House, 6221 East Highway WW.