COLUMBIA — After a lengthy process, the East Area Plan reached a significant milestone: passage by the Columbia City Council.
But its approval during Monday night's meeting raised questions about if and how the council will use it to consider future development proposals.
The plan, which passed the council unanimously, will serve as the primary guide for evaluating development proposals east of Columbia. The area encompasses 21 square miles south of Interstate 70 and east of U.S. 63.
The plan emphasizes phasing in infrastructure improvements before development, limiting commercial development on the interior of the study area and maintaining development densities that are consistent with the area.
First Ward Councilman Paul Sturtz does not want the council to forget the plan.
"If we do approve this, I hope we don't just leave in it a drawer and that we, as a council, push forward some of the good ideas that are suggested in the back of the (report) in the coming months and years," he said.
The first major litmus test for the council's consideration of large development proposals against the East Area Plan guidelines will be the 181-acre Richland Road annexation and rezoning request. The request proposes 80,000 square feet of commercial development and 700 residences south of Richland Road near the intersection of Grace Lane.
The city Planning and Zoning Commission will discuss the Richland Road request during its Thursday meeting and the council is expected to consider it during its Dec. 5 meeting.
The East Area Plan process began in December 2008 and the city held five stakeholder meetings and two public hearings to obtain public input. Commissioner Jeffrey Barrow said even though it was a lengthy process, the plan reflects residents' interests.
"I would like to commend the Planning and Zoning Commission, staff and everybody who participated in this process," Mayor Bob McDavid said. "You've given us a very elegant analysis of a very important part of Columbia’s future and I think the community is better for your work."
Third Ward Councilman Gary Kespohl proposed an amendment to include the word "advisory" in the title of the plan.
"I guess I know where Mr. Kespohl's coming from," McDavid said. "I think it's given that it's advisory in nature and it's not an ordinance. I guess I consider the motion redundant."
The council rejected the amendment 2-5. Fourth Ward Councilman Daryl Dudley joined Kespohl in support.
The county will begin its own evaluation process of the East Area Plan next week. The Boone County Commission will meet Thursday and could schedule the required public hearing it needs to hold before it can vote on the plan.