Controversial rezoning issue returns to Columbia City Council for vote

Sunday, July 17, 2011 | 12:01 a.m. CDT; updated 4:38 p.m. CDT, Tuesday, July 19, 2011

COLUMBIA — As neighborhood opposition continues, a rezoning request for the southwest corner of Broadway and West Boulevard will return Monday for a second Columbia City Council vote.

The request, submitted by Mark Nichols and Patti Mierzwa, owners of Great Hangups Framing, would potentially allow a developer to tear down current buildings, including three residential houses and the framing shop, and build a two-story building with significantly more commercial space.

Nichols said during a June 23 public hearing that they do not want to develop the corner. "It is our intention to just sell this property," Nichols said.

Nichols and Mierzwa are asking that the property be changed from R-1 residential zoning to C-P planned commercial zoning. A business has been allowed on the property because it was grandfathered in. The C-P zoning would allow redevelopment of the commercial space and potentially more intensive use of it.

Even though they are selling the property, the couple's statement of intent, which is required as part of the rezoning process, outlines a plan to build a single building. The first floor would have 4,000 square feet available for commercial space — an increase of about 30 percent from the 2,700 square feet Great Hangups uses. The upper floor would be residential.

Members of the Historic Sunset Lane Neighborhood Association have opposed the rezoning since it was raised in 2009. Their overarching concern is what a potential developer would do on the site and what that would mean for the neighborhood.

The council rejected the request last fall in a 5-2 vote.

For the vote on Monday, residents collected enough signatures to require a "supermajority" vote of the council. That means for the request to be approved, five of the seven members must vote yes.

Growth a thorny process

The controversy underscores the difficulty posed to property owners, developers and neighborhoods over growth. A new plan that would be used as a guide for development is a priority for the city's Comprehensive Plan Task Force and the Planning and Zoning Commission.

The current plan, Metro 2020, was adopted in 2001. But according to the city's website, Columbia has grown by almost 25,000 people and eight miles since then. Public input is being sought on the new plan, Columbia Imagined. The earliest it would be approved is next year.

Metro 2020 shows the Great Hangups corner as residential. Property on the northwest corner is marked commercial, and D&H Drug Store is there.

Residents in that area worry that rezoning the southwest corner would mark the start of major change to the neighborhood. Janice "Cookie" Hagan, chairwoman of the Historic Sunset Lane Neighborhood Association, said that the request lacks a site plan — which isn't required but would reassure neighbors about what would go there — and that residents want a study of traffic and infrastructure before rezoning is approved.

Once rezoning occurs and a new building is put there, "It will be there forever," Hagan said. "And the effect it will have on the community and neighborhood will be long-lasting.”

Dudley plans to vote 'yes'

Fourth Ward Councilman Daryl Dudley, who voted no last time, plans to vote in favor of the request Monday. He said neighborhood concerns will be addressed once a potential developer comes in with a plan for the property.

“The statement of intent written by the seller is just a loose document. They can write what can go on there when it gets rezoned," Dudley said. "But you can’t get too technical with that from the seller. Then you come in with a developer, that’s when everything comes in and starts to get down to the nitty-gritty.”

Dudley said he changed his mind about which way to vote as he became more familiar with the situation.

“Broadway is no longer a residential street — with the amount of traffic on it," Dudley said. "That corner is not conducive to the building of single-family dwelling.” 

A 2010 development plan for Broadway between Garth Avenue and West Boulevard aims to keep the street two lanes and “maintain a residential feel and lower traffic speeds,” according to a design company working with the city on a preliminary plan for West Broadway improvements. But the plan is stalled because of funding.

Traffic concerns city planner

City Planner Steve MacIntyre authored the staff recommendation suggesting approval of the request under the condition that the maximum building size and commercial use be reduced and that potential restaurant uses, including bakery, deli and coffee shop, be removed. However, the statement of intent submitted for Monday's vote is unchanged.

Coffee shops and other restaurants typically generate 10 times more traffic and twice as much parking as the other possible commercial uses, MacIntyre said.

Further, the city plans at some point to put a right-turn lane on eastbound Broadway turning into West Boulevard. After that happens, MacIntyre said, an entrance to any business might be too close to the intersection to make traffic run smoothly there.

“People are going to pull in if they see a coffee shop and cause a cluster and mess on Broadway,” MacIntyre said. He said he is mainly concerned about potential restaurant usage during peak commute times in the mornings and afternoons.

The statement of intent indicates a right-in right-out entrance/exit on Broadway. Such an arrangement is cautioned against in the city’s transportation plan, CATSO 2030, because it might reduce traffic flow by 25 percent. The plan suggests that driveways be no closer than 350 feet from intersections.

Sunset Lane resident Gennie Pfannenstiel said she and her husband bought their house about 25 years ago and were soon in love with the quiet neighborhood in the middle of the city. She wants it to stay that way and is concerned about what a rezoning change would mean to the neighborhood.

"I've seen the turnover of families on Sunset Lane — I've seen people grow old and move out and go to the nursing home or pass away," Pfannenstiel said. "I just figured I was one of those people who would grow old on Sunset Lane."

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Louis Schneebaum July 17, 2011 | 12:42 p.m.

If I'm downtown (always on my bike) and I want to buy some groceries or a snack, I have to go to:
a) Gerbes - over 2 miles away.
b) Hyvee - over 2 miles away.
c) Walgreens - all garbage.
d) Clovers - ripoff / poor selection.
We need some stuff closer to downtown, nay IN downtown... Put a freaking grocery store downtown. The Osco looks like a great spot. But wait, we can just use it as a hideous tool-shed for the megarich instead...

(Report Comment)
Ellis Smith July 17, 2011 | 3:43 p.m.

How many United States and Canadian cities have a full-blown super market in their downtown area? Very few, one suspects. There are sometimes specialty food stores.

One example of a very successful downtown year-round market is The Forks Market in Winnipeg, Manitoba (~750,000).

But The Forks Market also illustrates WHY you don't see large markets in city centers. The Forks Market has plenty of FREE, ground-level parking, same as a suburban super maarket. If Columbia had a downtown market with FREE, ground-level parking I'd definitely be there!

PS: The Forks Market also has restaurants.

(Report Comment)

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