Residents meet in Fifth Ward to discuss Comprehensive Plan

Wednesday, December 7, 2011 | 10:38 p.m. CST

COLUMBIA — The Comprehensive Plan Task Force is nearing the end of its community meetings in each of Columbia's six wards. The fifth of six meetings took place Wednesday at Gentry Middle School in the Fifth Ward.

Columbia's new comprehensive plan, Columbia Imagined, will provide a framework for how the city should grow over the next 20 years. At the meeting, several city officials spoke about different aspects of the plan.

Fifth Ward Councilwoman Helen Anthony said that of the seven areas in the plan, infrastructure was important to the residents in her ward. In fact, she said infrastructure improvements were a key part of her election platform.

"It was well-received," she said. "There wasn't one person that was happy with it that I spoke to that said, 'You know what, we've been really doing a great job with our streets and our infrastructure.'"

In the Fifth Ward, she cited the frustrations many residents had with road improvements on Scott Boulevard. 

She also cited the Thornbrook neighborhood as an example of improving the roads after a property has been developed.

"Thornbrook is a perfect example of building to the very edge without ensuring that we have" the infrastructure, she said.

Former mayoral candidate John Clark said there was nothing in the plan about affordable housing. The Missourian reported in October that the city continues to fall behind on its affordable housing goals.

Clark said the cost of the goals outlined in the plan had not been seriously considered yet.

"For me, the comprehensive plan is the tool for assessing the fiscal impact on the city of Columbia's ability to basically provide public infrastructure, government operations and public services," Clark said. "And it's just not clear to me that that's part of this effort."

Pat Zenner, city development services manager, referenced the Cherry Hill development at the corner of Chapel Hill Road and Scott Boulevard as a development that mixes commercial and residential uses and asked the audience if they thought that kind of development would work in other parts of the city.

"Is Cherry Hill something that you feel is sustainable and livable because it's a walkable environment?" he said. "Is that something that you would like to see more of?"

Ray Puri, Columbia Planning and Zoning Commission member and Fifth Ward resident, talked about the economic development at the Columbia Regional Airport, such as interchanges on U.S. 63 and runway improvements.

"I mean, now we're part of the SEC with Mizzou football. Now all these people have to fly in to see games and different things. It would be nice to have a nice regional airport."

About 10 people attended Wednesday night's meeting. Attendance has been sparse in the other ward meetings.

Shelley Simon, the chair of the Comprehensive Plan Task Force, said the panel has a goal to receive input from 3,000 Columbia residents, or 3 percent of the city's population. She said a similar plan in Portland, Ore., was able to meet this 3 percent goal.

"The city of Portland has done that and I thought 'Why couldn't Columbia do that?'" Simon said. "I have mentioned in some of these forums that, at this rate, I don't know if I'd live long enough to get 3,000 people involved."

After a crisp exchange with Simon, Clark said, "If you're not making progress to that (goal), rethink how you're engaging people."

Zenner tried to encourage the few attendees to reach out to other members of the community at the end of the presentation.

"As Shelley implored upon you, if we're trying to reach 3,000 people, we could be doing this for years to come," Zenner said. "So talk with your neighbors, talk it up at your work and try to help us to be able to reach our goal."

The final community meeting will be at 6 p.m. Monday at Shepard Boulevard Elementary in the Sixth Ward.

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