Roads main issue at East Columbia planning meeting

Wednesday, February 24, 2010 | 12:01 a.m. CST

COLUMBIA — Maps lined the back wall of the Elks Lodge Tuesday night as planners from Columbia and Boone County presented development strategies for an area east of the city. The maps showed features such as flood plains, watersheds and current land use for a 21-square-mile area east of the city.

But it was the map of proposed road layouts that got the most attention.

Several projects are planned for the area, including extensions of Rolling Hills Road, Ballenger Lane and Stadium Boulevard. Most who spoke Tuesday — planners and residents — seemed to agree that planned roads would bring development. Not everyone was excited about it.

John C. Corley was one of a hundred or so attendees. The retired electrical engineer has lived in the El Chaparral subdivision, within the study area, since 1974.

"I think it's already changing," Corley said. "Traffic on (Route) WW is horrendous."

To prepare for growth, Boone County and Columbia planners are working together to write the East Columbia Area Plan — a document that will catalog community input, environmental data and transportation and service needs to inform planning decisions. Tuesday's meeting was the second in a series of meetings meant to gather community feedback throughout the process.

At the meeting, planners presented drafts of two sections of the plan — one concerning the environment and another dealing with roads and city services.

During the study's first public meeting, held in November at the Club at Old Hawthorne, residents said the preservation and protection of land was a high priority. To honor that goal, planners suggested Tuesday:

  • The creation of trails and greenways;
  • zoning regulations that preserve open spaces;
  • and the preservation of some agricultural land.

Planners also said they understood concerns in the community that development not be allowed before adequate infrastructure is in place. To make sure that doesn't happen, they proposed:

  • The prioritization of projects so they don't occur too quickly;
  • the use of existing roads and services to guide future growth;
  • and the construction of necessary roads and sewers before development is allowed to occur.Growing

Carolyn Terry, a pediatrician, lives on New Haven Road in the study area. Terry said she's skeptical, but if growth is necessary, she prefers a strategy that manages traffic and allows children to walk to school.

She also said new roads made development inevitable. "If you build it, they will come," she said. "But the inverse is also true."

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