COLUMBIA — Developers wishing to build in downtown Columbia might soon be subject to stricter height, parking and design requirements.
The Columbia Planning and Zoning Commission voted Thursday in favor of establishing interim changes to the city's C-2 commercial zoning code. A large portion of downtown developments fall under C-2 zoning.
The city is considering changing the C-2 zoning regulations ahead of the completion of a citywide zoning rewrite by a hired consultant. The consultant's completed draft of recommendations is not scheduled to be delivered to council until the end of 2015, Community Development Director Tim Teddy said.
The commission voted to recommend interim regulations regarding building height, parking requirements and first-floor utilization. The commission also voted 7-0 to amend the proposed ordinance to include a sunset provision.
If approved by the city, the ordinance would:
- Require Planning and Zoning Commission review and City Council approval of proposed downtown buildings at or exceeding a height of 10 stories, or 120 feet. Recent changes to the proposed ordinance require completion of engineering and traffic analyses to ensure construction would not create excess demand on infrastructure and roads.
- Mandate parking spaces for residential or mixed-use buildings. Recent changes to the proposed amendment would require half a parking space be made available for each new bedroom constructed. The City Council could make exceptions to reduce parking requirements, and the requirements would not apply to new or expanded residential buildings.
- Forbid first-floor housing that faces the street on certain downtown blocks on Broadway and Ninth Street. Recent changes to the proposal clarify that housing entryways would still be permitted facing the street.
Subject any interim C-2 zoning regulations to a sunset provision. If passed, the ordinance would no longer be effective either two years after its passage or when the rewrite of the development code is approved – whichever comes first.
Some commission members expressed a desire to table a vote until October when the city is scheduled to receive the consultant's second phase of recommendations. The commission previously tabled the issue at its April 24 and May 22 meetings.
A report outlining the first phase of the consultant's citywide zoning rewrite recommendations was delivered to city staff on Wednesday, Teddy said. The consultant did not yet include any specific recommendations regarding C-2 zoning downtown, he said.
"October is two and a half months away, and we will have professional advice on this," Commissioner Lee Russell said. "I don’t know why we are trying to rush this through."
Some residents said they feared there could be unintended consequences of passing interim zoning regulations before a complete overhaul of the city's zoning is implemented.
“We just ask that you oppose this until we get those recommendations," said Rebecca Sterling of the Columbia Board of Realtors.
Commissioner Tootie Burns said the commission should not get hung up on recommendations but should move forward.
"What we’ve been charged with by City Council is to come up with some temporary fixes to the problems identified (with C-2 zoning)," Burns said. "Significantly and appropriately, we’ve addressed what we’ve been asked to do."
Daniel Cullimore of the North Central Columbia Neighborhood Association said the proposed changes did not follow previously adopted city plans, such as the H3 Charrette Report. That report recommended building height limits that varied across the downtown area.
“However, (the proposed changes do) address immediate and very real on-the-ground consequences from what results from the misuse of Columbia’s C-2 zoning regulations,” he said.
Burns' motion to adopt the H3 Charrette Report building height recommendations where they applied failed.
The commission's recommended changes to the C-2 zoning code will appear before the Columbia City Council for a first reading on Aug. 4. The council will have the option to vote on the ordinance at its Aug. 18 meeting.
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