COLUMBIA — The Brookside rezoning request and FastCAT Express bus route have both received the green light from the Columbia City Council.
The request from developers Jon and Nathan Odle to rezone two lots along Walnut Street from residential (R-3) to commercial (C-2) property and the proposal by Mayor Bob McDavid to introduce a new bus loop in the downtown and campus area passed Monday night with votes of 6-1.
Fifth Ward Councilwoman Helen Anthony voted against both measures.
Anthony said she doesn’t see anything significant in the development agreement between the city and the Brookside developers other than a contribution to the transit system.
“If we approve this rezoning, we’ve done nothing short of selling the rezoning for a contribution to our transit,” Anthony said. “We might as well just put a sign out front that says, ‘Zoning for sale.’”
Although Sixth Ward Councilwoman Barbara Hoppe agreed with Anthony on some points, she said the transit agreement is an opportunity to jump-start the transit system and will help both students and Columbia residents.
First Ward Councilman Fred Schmidt said the process was fractured but seems to have worked.
“We need to realize that the city of the future is one where the downtown and central areas will need to grow up and not out, unless we want unchecked urban sprawl,” Schmidt said.
Concerning the FastCAT route, Schmidt said he hopes the city will consult students as they finalize plans for its location.
Sam Robinson, director of Healthy Community Initiatives for the PedNet Coalition, spoke in support of the FastCAT proposal. He requested, however, that the bus loop’s riders be given access to the rest of the transit system and vice versa, at no additional charge.
Several council members agreed that FastCAT should be integrated with the rest of the transit system.
Although the route is set up independently from the rest of the city transit system, City Manager Mike Matthes said integration could be explored as plans are developed.
On June 7, the Planning and Zoning Commission voted 5-3 to recommend denial of the rezoning request after it had been amended to include a development agreement with the city.
In this five-year agreement, the Brookside developers agreed to cancel their intended private shuttle system, purchase semester bus passes for their downtown residents to ride the proposed FastCAT Express Route, construct a left turn lane on Walnut Street and build a 48-inch stormwater pipe down Walnut Street in exchange for City Council support of their rezoning request.
Before this amendment, the commission had voted unanimously to deny the request.
Community Development Director Tim Teddy said at the commission meeting that he and his staff support the rezoning request in light of the agreement with the city. The Community Development department had previously opposed it.
The developers’ request for a temporary parking lot on the Walnut site was approved by last week by the Columbia Board of Adjustment.
The developers will proceed with construction of their temporary parking lot, as they continue construction on their Brookside on College development.
The city will now begin taking steps to have the FastCAT route in place by Aug. 15, including preparing buses and marketing the route to students.
The conditional use permit for the temporary lot will last until Aug. 1, 2014. Once construction is complete on the parking garage, the lot will be removed, and construction will begin on a new complex expected to house 420 tenants.
The development agreement between the city and the Brookside developers will now remain in effect for the next five years, then it will be automatically renewed unless one party opts out.
This decision comes as the Brookside developers continue to increase their footprint on downtown Columbia by purchasing property on Locust Street earlier this month.
Other Council News
- The council voted to appropriate $1.1 million in funding for the Short Street Garage project after early estimates from consultants ended up more than $700,000 less than the lowest bid of $9,625,000. The total cost at this point is projected at $12 million. So far, officials have identified almost $300,000 in cuts for the project to bring the cost down to its projection.
To help advertise for the FastCAT route, City Manager Mike Matthes has asked for an amended budget to accommodate a new sales position.
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