Downtown Leadership Council continues conversation about downtown infrastructure

Friday, March 7, 2014 | 9:45 p.m. CST; updated 1:51 p.m. CDT, Wednesday, May 7, 2014

COLUMBIA — Downtown leaders focused on the porous requirements of C-2 zoning at a meeting Friday afternoon, requirements which led downtown development to be described as the "wild west" by several people there.

Weeks ahead of the regular Downtown Leadership Council meeting, a six-member subcommittee met to discuss options for funding needed infrastructure improvements. The subcommittee was formed after last week's Leadership Council meeting. Its goal is to do research and provide information to the council, which will then discuss the findings and make a recommendation to the City Council.

"If there were restrictions on C-2, we may not be where we are," said Brent Gardner, chairman of the subcommittee and the Historic Preservation Commission's representative to the Leadership Council, in reference to the current moratorium on downtown development.

C-2 zoning has no parking requirements for buildings and no restrictions on how tall a building can be.

Jack Cardetti, a representative of the development company for Brookside, was on hand to share the developer's perspective about the problems with C-2 zoning.

He described the C-2 development process as a funnel that is open at the beginning of the process but becomes more restrictive at the end, causing confusion among developers as to what the city and public want from downtown developments.

Cardetti provided a spreadsheet detailing the fees paid to the city by the developers to complete the Brookside properties downtown. He outlined the fees collectively paid on these projects in two categories: what was required as part of the development fee and building permit process and what was agreed upon above and beyond requirements during the end of the project process.

"This wide-open development process inevitably leads to every single policy decision being hammered out as part of a development agreement with the City Council," Cardetti said. "This method means that the City Council and staff has to negotiate every project on a case-by-case basis."

The group assembled Friday agreed that changes to C-2 needed to be fast-tracked by the city consultant handling the current zoning overhaul. Clarion Associates has been hired by the city to review the city's zoning and subdivision codes and create one unified code for council approval.

Aside from C-2, the most-discussed topic at the meeting was the lack of clear data the city has provided on current infrastructure capacity. The members of the subcommittee weren't sure how much future maintenance would cost compared with future expansion and the city's current infrastructure capacity. Fourth Ward Councilman Ian Thomas formally requested this data from City Manager Mike Matthes at the City Council's work session Monday night.

Subcommittee members Richard Perkins and Nick Peckham agreed to cull the city's Comprehensive Plan to see what data the city has already provided and what needs to be requested from city staff. The goal is to have the data before the subcommittee's next meeting on March 19.

The group agreed that funding for downtown infrastructure must come from multiple sources, including a revamped development fee structure. Members want to see an updated version of the 2007 report by MU's Ben Londeree comparing Columbia's development fees to those of 40 other Midwest cites. The City Council also requested this Monday night.

Mayor Bob McDavid and some members of the Leadership Council have suggested that the Downtown Community Improvement District could provide funding for infrastructure using measures such as a bond issue. Subcommittee member Deb Sheals, the improvement district representative to the Leadership Council, said her organization wasn't currently capable of producing a bond issue and she was unsure of where the funding would come from. Sheals also said that the improvement district has hired an independent consultant to work on voluntary C-2 guidelines for businesses.

Brookside Fees and Expenses
Below is a copy of the spreadsheet that details the fees paid to the city by the developers to complete the Brookside properties downtown. The spreadsheet was provided by Jack Cardetti, a representative of the development company for Brookside.

Supervising editor is Allie Hinga.

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