Residents weigh in on East Area Plan

Tuesday, May 25, 2010 | 10:41 p.m. CDT; updated 3:45 p.m. CDT, Saturday, June 26, 2010

COLUMBIA — Residents who live in the eastern part of Boone County helped to plan the future development of their communities Tuesday night.

At a meeting held by the city and county planning and zoning commissions, about 60 residents drew on maps of the 21 square miles of the county to show how they would like the East Area Plan to look. In groups, they plotted out good areas for different types of zoning. The meeting was held at the Columbia Benevolent Organization's meeting hall in the Elks Lodge, 4747 Elk Park Drive East.

The city and county employees intend to examine the maps to incorporate their ideas into the plans for future growth. They will hold another meeting in June to show the residents what they came up with using their ideas.

"When you have an interaction process, you get better input," said Helen Anthony, a city planning commissioner. "And what we're really trying to do is to get the community to decide."

The area is expected to grow and perhaps become part of the city in the near future . It is currently made up of 69 percent agricultural zoning, 23 percent residential zoning and the remaining eight percent is a mixture of industrial, commercial and office zoning. Patrick Zenner, the development services manager, estimated that the area had grown by about 20 percent in population and housing units in the past decade.

The Columbia City Council requested the city and county employees work together to plan the future growth, Anthony said. The council wants to have a stable plan in place so that future development goes smoothly and is acceptable to the residents.

"Whatever occurs will hopefully be something that they had input in," said Sixth Ward Councilwoman Barbara Hoppe.

The county's growth will depend largely on the development of the area's infrastructure, said city planner Matthew Lepke, meaning the roads, electricity, water and sewer systems.

"Electricity and water, those are two things we don't have to worry about," Lepke said. "They are ready to go."

The sewer systems and the roads, on the other hand, do provide some challenges to the area's growth.

The area is divided into six sections based on different watersheds. The Gans and the Clear Creek watersheds will probably not grow much due to the lack of sewer infrastructure, Zenner said.

The area also lacks some road infrastructure, but there are many plans for road expansions. Work on extending Maguire Boulevard so that it will connect LeMone Industrial Park to Stadium Boulevard is already under way. It is expected to be completed during the summer, Zenner said.

Another road expansion project will extend Rolling Hills Road, as to connect Grace Lane to Richland Road. The work, already budgeted for and designed, will begin next year and cost the city $4 million.

Many of the plans for other road expansions may not take place until well into the future, said Thaddeus Yonke, the Boone County senior planner. The county and city employees have developed plans to extend Stadium Boulevard to Interstate 70 and to build an overpass for Ballenger Lane over Interstate 70. They also plan to extend Ballenger Lane to connect Clark Lane and St. Charles Road. These projects are in the planning stages, though, with no timeline to begin them.

Residents had mixed feelings about the changes in their community, but appreciated that the city and county employees had included them in the planning.

"I have some questions back and forth," said Maury Ellis of the South Lenoir Woods neighborhood. "It is something good, and the city is trying to do it right."

Harold Johnson of the Timberhill neighborhood said, "Excellent meeting. It clarified a lot of things."

Glenn Rice, a Columbia planning commissioner, said that giving the residents some influence in the growth of their community would make it easier on everyone.

"Many of these people living out here are here to stay," Rice said. "So what we are doing is giving them some say."

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