Planners hope Columbia grows up, not out

Wednesday, February 10, 2010 | 12:01 a.m. CST

COLUMBIA — The Department of Development and Planning wants Columbia to grow up.

Planners are looking at options to control urban sprawl and build more efficiently within city limits.

The department held the first of four workshops about the topic Tuesday night at the Columbia Chamber of Commerce.

Planners Rachel Bacon and Steve MacIntyre began by defining infill development as “the development or redevelopment of land that has been bypassed, remained vacant, and/or underused.”

The planners asked attendees to participate in a “Visual Preference Pilot Program.” Everyone was asked to rate images of homes, commercial properties and office buildings, based on how much they liked the look of each property.

Bacon said the survey could be used as a tool to judge Columbia’s reaction to what they look for in city planning.

“We just want to see if we should do this or not," Bacon said. "The survey will give us guidance for what you’re thinking."

The survey is on the department's Web site. It is scheduled to remain on there for about two months.

Jim Downey, president of the Country Club Estates Neighborhood Association, said the meetings are a step in the right direction toward educating people.

The city will hold three more meetings addressing topics of where and when infill is appropriate (Feb. 24), and the how the city should use and regulate infill development (March 8, April 7). Meetings are always held at 7 p.m., but the location has not yet been determined.

The group of about 20 people also expressed interest in the city’s plans for another way to zone properties, which addresses urban sprawl, MacIntyre said.

MacIntyre said this tool, called "form zoning," would serve as a buffer between residential and commercial property that would harm the value of homes. For example, this would allow the city to prevent a gas station from turning into a large-scale commercial development.

The city hopes to use form zoning and infill development to increase revenue in the city.

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