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Columbia Missourian

City Council candidates discuss downtown zoning

By Missourian staff
March 24, 2013 | 6:03 p.m. CDT

COLUMBIA — Missourian reporters asked candidates for seats on the Columbia City Council nine standardized questions about city government issues. Here are their verbatim answers to a question about downtown zoning. 

What is your view of existing zoning and development regulations downtown and whether the city should embark on an effort to revise them?

On The Watchword

You can find audio files of the City Council candidates' answers to Missourian questions on our local government blog, The Watchword.

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Mayoral candidates

Bob McDavid: "Well we should explore them. C-2 zoning is open zoning, and there’s always an opportunity to review it, to tweak, to see what’s good and what’s bad about it. We need to keep in mind that it has reasonably served us well in the past because we do have an active, vibrant downtown. We have enough activity downtown that there are hundreds of communities that would love to be talking about how we slow things down. Most communities are talking how to revive their downtown. So it’s, it’s in some ways a great problem to have. It’s useful to look at, you know, how tall buildings should be. It’s useful to look at parking requirements because that determines, you know, the infrastructure demands on the city. At the end of the day, I’d like to see a lot of activity downtown. I’d like to see students living adjacent to campus, and I just think that adds to the vitality of our great downtown."

Sid Sullivan: "The downtown, as in all zoning, has a pyramid-type zoning. And when you look at the zoning, there are permitted uses and non-permitted uses, and then there are conditional uses. But the city really needs to decide how they want the downtown to be used and how they want the downtown to look. And once we've done that I think we really need to take a look at the zoning ordinances and take a look at the kinds of uses. They were put in in the '60s, and so there are uses in the downtown area that I don't think really belong in the downtown area. Things like gas stations, other permitted uses that we'd really like to exclude if we want a walkable environment where we have people that are lingering and enjoying the restaurants and entertainment of the downtown area."

Third Ward candidates

Karl Skala: "The city has already embarked on an effort to revise them in a couple of ways. One is several, several years ago, we started the process to contract for and produce a comprehensive plan, which was supposed to use growth management principles to eventually get to zoning revision and subdivision revision. Some of the zoning code ordinances have not been revised since 1964, so we’re long overdue for that kind of thing. Additionally, we were asked by the City Council to take a look at the C-2 zoning in particular, triggered really by the potential for private development in high density residential downtown with the Niedermeyer property. And then there was a proposal for an abeyance, a six-month abeyance on demolition downtown. So, that kind of triggered an interest in C-2 zoning. Classically, Planning and Zoning has recommended that the city carefully consider when it grants C-2 zoning, particularly when it comes to high-density residential like student development because of the unique impacts it has. So, Planning and Zoning and several other groups are, in fact, looking at C-2 rezoning, and there are several suggestions on the horizon, one of which might be an overlay, another of which might be to go back to a system whereby it was a conditional use permit for high-density residential only."

Gary Kespohl: "City Council has asked the stakeholders, the Community Improvement District, the Downtown Leadership Council and the surrounding neighborhoods to give their opinion on zoning downtown. I attended a CID meeting last Thursday, and they think zoning is OK the way that it is. I think it should be reviewed, and maybe some changes be made to certain areas of the zoning, certain zoning categories."

Fourth Ward candidates

Daryl Dudley: "The city has to embark on revising them, but it’s going to take a large group of people to do that. There has to be someone from the development committee, has to be someone from downtown, has to be a couple of people from interested (groups) around the city. It can't just be downtown; you can’t have a lopsided group. You have to have everybody there, because all of their opinions and thoughts have to be taken into consideration. So that means development, legal, planning and zoning, and environmental and citizens."

Ian Thomas: "Well, I feel that the use zoning system is somewhat limited and doesn’t always achieve the objectives that it was set up for. And a great example of that is the fact that a lot of downtown is zoned C-2, which allows a very intensive use in terms of multi-unit housing, which is considered to be less intense than commercial, but in everybody’s opinion it is more intense. I would like to look at overlay zoning that would to some extent discourage student housing. I’m concerned that the student housing boom is going to overshoot if we’re not careful and would encourage housing suitable for other types of downtown residents such as professionals, senior citizens and even families."

Bill Weitkemper: "Most of the downtown’s zoned C-2, which allows for residential construction and C-2 zoning, and I don’t think that’s appropriate if you don’t require parking. And when they do the residential construction, there’s no setback requirements, no parking requirements and no height requirements. So you need to rezone the property from C-2 to R-2 or R-3 to R-4, whatever you want to build there, or transfer the restrictions that are in R-2 to R-3 to R-4 to the location where you’re going to build something."

Missourian reporters Hannah Cushman, Elizabeth Pearl, Tony Puricelli, Madeline O'Leary, Chris Jasper, Allison Prang and Nuria Mathog contributed to this report.

Supervising editor is Scott Swafford.