Fourth Comprehensive Plan meeting draws small crowd

Thursday, December 1, 2011 | 10:32 p.m. CST

COLUMBIA — A handful of Columbia residents sat in the small cafeteria at Fairview Elementary School on Thursday evening for a presentation about the current state of the city.

This was the fourth meeting in a series of six presentations helping the Comprehensive Plan Task Force get feedback from Columbia residents on how they see the city today.

Members of the task force described ways to view Columbia's growth and infrastructure and asked people in attendance to think about how they would describe the city. Task force members pitched questions about how people view development trends and city growth.

The next phase will focus on what people in the city care about for future development in Columbia. The meetings have been sparsely attended — only one person not directly involved in the plan attended the meeting for Second Ward residents. Attendance was higher at Thursday's meeting, but fewer than 10 people who weren't part of the plan came.

Since the current presentations deal with how people describe Columbia now, the thin turnout is not surprising, even if a little disappointing, Columbia's Planning and Development director Tim Teddy said.

Members of the task force have started planning how they will reach out to residents during the next phase of the plan so more people will come to the meetings in February and early March. They plan to get the word out about meetings earlier and more often. They might send backpack mailers home with students from school to alert parents.

"We want to hear. We invite people who are upset about anything to come talk to us," task force member Bonnie Maiers said.

She added that she thinks a large number of Columbia residents care about affordable housing and transit issues and will come to the meetings in the next phase to discuss them. Making the city a place more appealing to young professionals and aging baby boomers will be key in the city's future development, she said.

Larry Dickerson, community development specialist with MU Extension, led the presentation and said he has worked on using less jargon to make the meetings feel more accessible to the public. He said he thinks being more conversational could help the task force get more input from Columbia residents.

He said he wants people to realize they have a great opportunity to get involved in the plan making.

"If you don't get involved, somebody else will," he said.

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Gary Straub December 2, 2011 | 9:11 a.m.

Perhaps if the city would put more effort into informing the public of meetings, there would be better attendance. One possible way would be to put a flyer into utility statement envelopes each month with a calendar of public meetings for the month. Or perhaps each wards council-person could mail out postcards to their constituent households. After all we get newsletters from every where else, like the school district, the water and light dept., the arts, the library etc. A council newsletter would be a fine idea.

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