Planning and Zoning Commission tables C-2 zoning amendments again

Thursday, May 22, 2014 | 11:04 p.m. CDT; updated 7:10 a.m. CDT, Friday, May 23, 2014

COLUMBIA — The Columbia Planning and Zoning Commission voted 6-2 Thursday to table proposed interim changes to the city's C-2 commercial zoning code.

Commissioners expressed concern that the public did not have enough time to review recent alterations to the proposed amendment. The commission had already tabled the issue at its April 24 meeting, citing a lack of time for public feedback since the council sent the group the ordinance on March 18.

"As far as I know, no one saw (the new proposal) prior to our agenda being published," Commissioner Doug Wheeler said. "That, to me, is not the appropriate way to handle something this important."

The city is considering changing the C-2 zoning regulations ahead of the completion of a citywide zoning rewrite by a hired consultant. A large portion of downtown developments fall under C-2 zoning.

Some commission members wanted to approve part of the zoning amendments but feared that moving forward would allow the City Council to approve regulations the commission did not want passed.

"My concern is that I don’t really trust the council to not add on," Wheeler said. "If we send up any sort of amendment, council could (change it)."

Several alterations were made to the proposed zoning amendments following the commission's decision to table it in April. These changes were made to clarify the amendments and to appease community and developer concerns, community development director Tim Teddy said.

Despite the city's efforts to quell public concerns, several local business owners and residents spoke out against the amendments during a public hearing.

Carrie Gartner, executive director of the Downtown Community Improvement District Board, said she wanted the commission to adjust language and consider seeking more public input.

The meat of the problem, she said, was with concerns over parking for residential buildings.

The Downtown Community Improvement District Board "recommends that the city start a parking commission," she said. "Right now there’s no place where people gather at a table to discuss these concerns."

Many people who spoke at the commission meeting asked for the document to be tabled to allow for more revisions to be made. Some downtown business owners said they feared there could be unintended consequences to passing these amendments before a complete overhaul of the city's zoning is implemented.

“This appears to be an ad hoc reaction to recent pending proposals," said Becky Sterling of the Columbia Board of Realtors. "It’s politics. (Issues with C-2 zoning) didn’t really pop up until they started to do something with it.”

If approved by the city, the amendments would include:

  • Mandating City Council approval for proposed downtown buildings at or exceeding a height of 10 stories or 120 feet.
  • Requiring parking spaces for residential or mixed-use buildings. Recent changes to the proposed amendment would allow off-site parking and other alternatives. City council could make exceptions to reduce parking requirements.
  • Forbidding first-floor housing that faces the street on certain downtown blocks.

Existing buildings that don't conform to the new zoning rules would be grandfathered in, and the new parking requirement would only apply to new or expanded residential buildings.

What's next

The commission tabled a vote on the amendments until its July 24 meeting. The postponement will give the commission time to discuss the amendments at its scheduled June 19 work session, development services manager Patrick Zenner said.

All public comments received by June 13 will be discussed at the work session, he said. The committee will also have a chance to review the proposal at its July 10 work session.

Supervising editor is Edward Hart.

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