COLUMBIA — The Planning and Zoning Commission joined the Comprehensive Plan Task Force on Wednesday night to present Phase II of the land growth and management model, otherwise known as the city’s comprehensive plan.
Such a model was recommended by the Imagine Columbia's Future initiative. Columbia Planning and Development director Tim Teddy described the six-part plan as necessary to make growth and expansion a more uniform process across the city.
The Comprehensive Plan Task Force is an ad-hoc committee composed of 15 volunteer members. The group was commissioned by Columbia City Council in 2009.
Teddy said seven categories have been explored and researched by work teams made up of members of the commission and task force.
Although no public meeting is currently scheduled, the city plans on conducting meetings in each city ward between now and November.
Task force member Bonnie Maiers said Columbia has remained economically stable throughout tumultuous times. Local jobs grew 3 percent between 2005 and 2009. Additionally, in 2010 the city's three-month unemployment figure in Columbia was 5.7 percent — well below the state average of 9.4 percent and the national average of 9.6 percent.
She said the job markets in retail, health care, government and education are poised for growth. Additionally, three "shovel ready" sites are spread throughout the city — Discovery Ridge, Sutter Industrial Park and Ewing Industrial Park.
Land use and growth management
Task force member Jonathan Sessions said controlling land use and growth management is the primary focus of the task force. Approximately eight square miles have been annexed since 2000, but the sprawl has been disjointed.
A land use breakdown of the city states that low density residential dwellings make up nearly half the city, he said. Further development is anticipated as the three new area schools and public sewer extension projects are completed.
This category was created to ensure sustainable development for the next 20 years, which must be balanced with the importance Columbia puts on preserving existing green space.
Task force member John Glenn said the task force plans to consider the 46 waterways in a 198-square-mile area around the city in the 2007 National Resources Inventory. The city has 3,140 acres of parkland and 10 percent of the city is impermeable surfaces.
But he said the task force is concerned about the loss of historic properties. Columbia has 122 "Most Notable" properties on its own list and 47 places on the National Register of Historic Places, but the city lost 53 historic structures from 2009 to 2010.
Glenn summed up the issue with two questions: What should dominate the city skyline — constellations, the dome of Jesse Hall or the Walnut Street garage?
Fifty-seven percent of Columbia's citizens are dissatisfied with city streets, according to a June survey explained in a previous Missourian report.
The task force wants to focus on which sections of the city need street repairs that will affect the most people, city planner Matthew Lepke said.
The presentation states that the sewer system expects to have approximately 60,000 more users and to have doubled the wastewater flow by 2030.
Lepke described the issue bluntly: The city can't do everything.
"It's hard," Lepke said. "There's too much to do and not enough money."
This category is about creating opportunities for the city and county governments to work together.
Currently, the governments coordinate on stormwater management, transportation planning and fire department coverage. Much of this cooperation is borne out of necessity, Pat Zenner, city development services manager, said.
For example, the city and county came together to prepare the East Area Plan, a vision for development east of the city. The task force wants to know from citizens how government sectors can cooperate better.
Livable and sustainable communities
Because 48 percent of the city's growth in the past 10 years has come from low-density residential housing, the city is promoting density and infill development as one of its goals in this section.
City planner Rachel Bacon said having a vibrant city center involves being committed to multiple modes of transportation and making the city accessible to young and old, able and disabled.
She said it also means being more energy efficient. The city has four public LEED-certified buildings and five others in the private sector.
Mobility, connectivity and access
The city is responsible for maintaining 585 miles of streets, roughly 300 miles of sidewalks and pedways, more than 350 bike racks and nearly 26 miles of bike/greenbelt trails.
City hubs such as schools, shopping centers, major employers and other daily destinations should be linked in a harmonious ways, task force member Annelle Whitt said. But the task force thinks mobility and accessibility are currently limited by shortcomings in connectivity.
She hopes citizens will be able to enhance the city’s thinking process about addressing transportation issues. She said describing problems, offering criticisms and suggesting solutions are all welcomed forms of input.