COLUMBIA — The public raised questions on the first draft of a simplified development code Thursday night.
Representatives from the consulting firm Clarion Associates hosted a public forum at the Daniel Boone City Building to present the first of a three-part update to the city's zoning and subdivision regulations.
Of the more than 30 people at the public forum, several raised questions about plans to combine zoning districts, which could lead to higher-density areas.
Clarion Associates Director Don Elliott said residents were justified to be skeptical of combining some residential areas and his firm would address the issue in the second draft report, which is scheduled to be released in October.
"We will present our best way to allow multi-family apartments to be built and still not have them overshadow single-family homes," Elliott said.
Resident Adam Howser, who currently lives in R-1 zoning, said he was worried about changes to land-use regulations that would allow group homes, such as homes for recovering substance abusers, to be built in R-1 zoning.
"There is a reasonable expectation by people in R-1 zoning of security and privacy," Howser said.
Although current zoning codes do not allow those types of homes to be built in R-1 zoning, the city could be in violation of the Fair Housing Act if it continues that practice, Elliot said. The firm will draft housing restrictions if the city asks it to, but the city might face a lawsuit if it does, he said.
Elliot said the main goal of the new code is to bring zoning and land-use regulations into alignment with the city's comprehensive planning guide, Columbia Imagined. All of the changes the consultant is recommending are designed with that goal in mind, he said.
The first draft of the new development code, called "Module 1: Zone Districts and Permitted Uses," defines zoning districts and classifies land-use regulations. Some of the more significant changes to the zoning districts include:
- Consolidating Columbia's current 25 zoning districts into 18 zoning districts. Some districts, such as current residential zoning districts R-3 and R-4, would combine to become a single residential multi-family zoning district.
- Replacing commercial zoning standards with "mixed-use" zoning. C-2 zoning downtown would be replaced with a mixed-use downtown zoning district that would include strict regulation of the form, shape and building types allowed, while still allowing a broad range of uses.
- Replacing the city's four planned zoning districts – planned unit development, planned office, planned commercial and planned general industrial – with a single planned development district with a simpler structure. "A healthy city uses these (planned districts) much less often than you do and doesn't need four flavors of it," Elliott said.
Clarion Associates has been working on the Columbia Development Code Update Project since January. The remainder of the rewrite is scheduled to be completed in two more stages and released as a final draft in summer 2015.
Clarion Associates has asked that all public comments on the first module draft be submitted by Sept. 15. All questions or comments for the consultant about the code update can be submitted to Community Development Director Tim Teddy at firstname.lastname@example.org.