COLUMBIA — The best laid plans may oft go awry, but it's better when you make those plans together. Or so say Columbia and Boone County planning officials.
The Columbia City Council voted unanimously Monday night to adopt the first large-scale joint planning project between city and county planning and zoning officials. The Northeast Area Plan will not set policy but will serve as a guide for future land-use decisions near the proposed site of a new Columbia high school.
Most of the 5-square-mile area covered by the plan lies outside city limits and is rural and undeveloped.
The council requested the area plan in February 2008 after the Columbia Public School District announced the site off of East St. Charles Road. The new high school is expected to be completed in 2013 and likely will lead to a surge of development in the area.
Comments at the council meeting focused almost entirely on the benefits of cooperation.
Jeff Barrow, chairman of the Columbia Planning and Zoning Commission, told council members that the input of both county commissioners and county residents was a revelation.
"I learned a whole different perspective," Barrow said. "I wish we had plans like this for every area where we're getting annexation requests."
In writing the plan, city and county officials gathered input from residents in the area about the types of development they would like to see. The final plan calls for owner-occupied and single-family housing, commercial development along Route Z and south of St. Charles Road and industry along the Interstate 70 corridor.
The plan also emphasizes the need to make road, sewer and electrical improvements before any large-scale development can occur.
Skip Elkin, northern Boone County commissioner, said the plan was meant to be flexible as development in the area begins to take shape.
"Keep in mind, this is a living and breathing document," he said. "It will change."
Elkin emphasized the role that residents in the area played. "This was citizen-driven," he said.
Pam Jordan lives in the study area near Route Z and East St. Charles Road. She told council members that residents in the area were divided on many issues. Some, she said, saw benefits in development and city services. Others were reluctant to have their rural lifestyles encroached upon.
Nonetheless, she said, "We don't want to stand in the way of progress. We want to be part of progress."
First Ward Councilman Paul Sturtz told Barrow he'd like to see estimates for costs such as the expansion of city services and roadway improvements in future area plans.
Barrow agreed. "That's something Planning and Zoning has a strong interest in," he said.
A second joint-commission area plan project kicked off last month to address another area poised for rapid growth. The East Columbia Area Plan will study some 21 square miles east of the city. A proposed extension of Stadium Boulevard would bisect the area and connect with I-70 east of Columbia.