Council to hold hearing on Columbia Imagined comprehensive plan

Sunday, June 30, 2013 | 6:00 a.m. CDT; updated 1:31 p.m. CDT, Sunday, June 30, 2013

COLUMBIA — Patrick Zenner hopes his staff leaves a lasting imprint on Columbia with the recently constructed comprehensive land use plan,  “Columbia Imagined – The Plan for How We Live and Grow.”

A task force appointed by the Columbia City Council and coordinated by Zenner, the city's development services manager, assembled the plan to guide future land use and growth strategies with clear goals and suggestions. The development of "Columbia Imagined" is an exciting time for the community, Zenner said.

Also on the agenda

The Columbia City Council's next regular meeting is at 7 p.m. Monday at the Daniel Boone Building, 701 E. Broadway. Along with a public hearing on the final draft of the city's new comprehensive plan, the council's agenda includes:

Planners and members of the public who contributed to the document, which has been three years in the making, have a lot to be proud of, he said.

"There is a lot I like and very little I dislike," Zenner said about the plan. "'Columbia Imagined' is well put-together and has clear organization."

The plan calls for a community that will remain livable and sustainable for years to come and outlines specific strategies and actions for how to accomplish what the public wants. It would serve as an advisory document rather than a set of binding regulations, Zenner said.

The City Council will hold a public hearing on "Columbia Imagined" during its regular meeting Monday night as a final step before it's adopted.

What’s different about this plan?

"Columbia Imagined" would replace an existing land use plan, Metro 2020 that was approved by the council in 2001. The new plan differs from Metro 2020 in that it offers policy-makers and city planners specific guidelines for community development that go beyond land use. It also reflects public preferences for how Columbia should grow and provides clear methods for implementing its goals, Zenner said.

Like Metro 2020, the plan includes a land-use map that outlines what sorts of future development are most appropriate in the metro area.

"'Columbia Imagined' allows the public to see if policy makers are keeping to the plan," Zenner said. "They can see if they are going to make the plan a reality."

Unlike previous guides, the proposed document provides a framework that should be reusable when amendments and updates are needed, Zenner said.

What are the plan's major themes?

The plan addresses seven “elements” of focus that policy makers should consider development and expansion requests over the next two decades. They include:

  • Land use and growth management
  • Environmental management
  • Infrastructure
  • Mobility, connectivity and accessibility
  • Economic development
  • Intergovernmental cooperation
  • Livable and sustainable communities

Strategies for land use and growth management are highlighted in the guide with specific emphasis on “infill development” and “mixed-use development.”

Infill development focuses on using undeveloped land within the city, while mixed-use development calls for blending residential and commercial land uses.

Both ideas promote the use of existing infrastructure to create a denser community. Compact development facilitates more complete communities and livable environments, and it saves a lot of money, Zenner said.

"External growth raises concerns about things like adequate infrastructure and roads," he said. "You reduce expenses with mixed-use areas as you utilize already constructed infrastructure and roads."

Zenner said mixed uses also reduce reliance on automobiles and promote “walkability” by placing basic services near homes.

What does the plan say about future growth?

Using two models, planners estimated Columbia's population will grow from 1.1 percent to 1.5 percent per year. By 2030, the plan says, the metro area's population will grow from the present 134,572 to between 165,503 to 181,276.

The demand for residential and commercial land will rise with the population. The plan projects that there is plenty of land to accommodate the need for housing if infill strategies are used, and there also is sufficient industrial property. More land is needed, however, to accommodate office and other commercial uses.

In order to follow the plan and adjust for population growth, officials will need to review and amend their policies, Zenner said.

"We have to look at zoning code and regulations in order to facilitate the ideas imbedded in 'Columbia Imagined,'" he said. The council, for example, would use the plan to decide whether an annexation request is appropriate.

Using the Columbia Area Transportation Study Organization (CATSO) and Show-Me models, planners estimated Columbia's population and housing needs will grow by 2030. The CATSO model is based on historical growth. The Show-Me model is based on economic factors. The plan projects there will be plenty of land to accommodate the need for housing if infill strategies are used.

How did the plan come about?

It is standard practice in municipal government for comprehensive plans to be re-done approximately every 10 years, Zenner said.

"Columbia Imagined" is the result of three years of work that was broken down into multiple phases to give residents from all six of the city's wards ample opportunity to weigh in.

The Comprehensive Plan Task Force directly invited more than 80,000 residents to contribute to the plan. The group held dozens of public meetings and used social and other media to provide opportunities for input, task force member Don Stamper said.

Those outreach efforts helped ensure "Columbia Imagined" focuses on issues the public finds important.

"I think the plan expresses a lot about people’s desires for the future of Columbia," Stamper said. "The plan should and will direct how our city moves forward in the future."


Supervising editor is Scott Swafford.

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