COLUMBIA — Stadium Boulevard likely will be extended to the east of Columbia to connect with Interstate 70, and that will mean development — probably a lot of development.
Columbia and Boone County planning officials held a public forum Tuesday evening to discuss the future of a 21-square-mile area east of the city that will be affected. The groups billed the meeting, held in the clubhouse of the The Club at Old Hawthorne, as the first in a series to develop a planning document intended to guide development in an area likely to grow substantially.
The area in question is bounded by Interstate 70, U.S. 63, East New Haven Road and Rangeline Road. Currently most of the land is undeveloped and not yet part of Columbia.
Introducing Tuesday's meeting, Columbia Planning and Zoning Chairman Jeff Barrow said he was optimistic about the process.
"We believe that by combining our efforts we'll get a well-balanced and thought-out plan," Barrow said.
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 Columbia City Council requested the study in response to the proposed Stadium Boulevard project and in response to the interest that the extension has drawn from developers.
One major landowner, Richland Road Properties LLC, has already asked to be annexed into the city with plans for a 271-acre commercial and residential development along the proposed Stadium Boulevard route. After a year of back-and-forth between the developer and the city, the council voted on Nov. 2 to table the request for four more months.
Several council members cited the lack of a comprehensive study for the area as a reason to postpone action on the request.
Steve Fleischer has lived off New Haven Road in the southern part of the study area for 10 years. He said the notice for Tuesday's meeting was the first he had heard of the East Columbia Area Plan but that he wasn't surprised by the anticipated growth.
"I think east Columbia is going to be huge," he said, adding that he didn't necessarily mind the prospect of his property being annexed into the city.
"I'm still a ways away, but I'd like to have a sewer line," Fleischer said.
In the second half of the session, the approximately 60 people in attendance broke into smaller groups to discuss specific concerns with individual city and county planning officials. Participants spoke about a variety of concerns, but struck common chords on the need to preserve tree coverage, open spaces and rural character. Several in attendance expressed dismay at the prospect of being annexed into the city, citing fears of urban sprawl and higher taxes.
Dale and Mary Jane Coble live in the center of the study area, off St. Charles Road. Despite some concerns, Dale Coble said he was impressed by the process.
"The simple fact that there is a meeting with willing officials and an interested public is a good thing," he said. "These meetings are an opportunity for us to bring forth thoughts, ideas and concerns for the betterment of east Columbia."
Detailed plans for the proposed expressway have not been finalized, but the Missouri Department of Transportation completed an environmental impact study in May that laid out a 400-foot-wide swath of land on which the roadway would be built.
The East Columbia Area Plan is the second large-scale area plan to be conducted jointly between city and county officials. The Northeast Columbia Area Plan was completed in October and addressed a roughly five-square-mile area expected to develop around the site of the proposed new Columbia public high school. The Northeast Columbia Area Plan covered the area north of Interstate 70 and east of Lake of the Woods Road.
Barrow said he expects to hold two more public meetings during the process and that the East Columbia Area Plan likely will be completed by May 2010.