COLUMBIA — The City of Columbia took a step toward preserving and acquiring green space Thursday night when members of the Parks and Recreation Commission discussed the criteria the city should use when identifying, prioritizing and ranking potential sites.
The commission’s work could prove inconsequential if voters decide not to extend a one-eighth of 1 percent park sales tax in the Nov. 2 election. But for now the city is moving forward with preliminary planning so it is prepared to begin work promptly if the tax, which would raise an estimated $2.025 million for land acquisition and preservation, is extended.
The tentative site criteria, created by representatives of the city manager’s and Parks and Recreation departments, would likely be used as a scoring matrix that helps city officials rank plots of land it is considering for purchase.
The preliminary matrix presented to the commission at Thursday’s meeting called for the city to consider five components when evaluating a property: area of impact, unique features, likelihood of development, potential benefits and acquisition potential.
Each component was broken down into subcategories and assigned an overall point value of between 10 and 30 points, depending on its perceived importance.
Commission members were generally supportive of the proposed criteria.
“It seems to cover everything,” Parks and Recreation commissioner Meredith Donaldson said of the scoring matrix.
Commissioners Daniel Devine, Bill Pauls and Terry Kloeppel raised questions about point allocations and suggested taking 10 points away from the unique features component, which includes considerations such as topography, scenic views and the presence of endangered species.
“I think unique features could be knocked down,” Devine said.
The commissioners recommended shifting five of those points to the likelihood of development component and moving the other five to the acquisition potential component.
Kloeppel motioned that the points be reallocated as discussed; the motion passed unanimously.
Parks and Recreation commissioners also reached consensus — though no formal motion was made — that the final points matrix should be used only as a guide rather than as the sole factor for determining what properties to acquire.
The same acquisition criteria are also being reviewed by the Environment and Energy Commission, the Vision Commission and the Planning and Zoning Commission. The city council will consider recommendations from the commissions before giving directions for the drafting of a final proposal.