Columbia City Council approves more downtown housing, zoning rule changes

Tuesday, August 19, 2014 | 1:55 a.m. CDT; updated 6:01 p.m. CDT, Tuesday, August 19, 2014

*CORRECTION: New or expanded residential or mix-use buildings would be subject to new parking requirements. An earlier version of this story gave incorrect information about what developments would be affected.

COLUMBIA Another developer got the green light from the Columbia City Council to build a student apartment building downtown near MU. The approval of American Campus Communities' project came just before the council approved new rules for others who want to develop downtown.

The council voted Monday night to approve a development agreement and rezoning request from American Campus Communities, a Texas-based developer that wants to build a five-story, 718-bed apartment tower at Providence Road and Turner Avenue. The developer plans to finish construction on the project by August 2017, according to the development agreement.

Council also voted to unanimously amend the development agreement with American Campus Communities to include language that would provide the developer with a guarantee that the city will have adequate utilities to serve the project upon its completion.

“I think this goes a long way to setting the precedent that sewer and (utilities) should be in place for developments – especially large developments," Sixth Ward Councilwoman Barbara Hoppe said.

The development agreement formalizes a $300,000 contribution by American Campus Communities to help pay for work on the Flat Branch Relief Sewer downtown and the purchase of $52,000 worth of city bus passes for 200 residents.

The sanitary sewer contribution is in addition to any on-site sanitary sewer fees the developer would have to pay. If the city were to raise existing sewer connection fees or sanitary sewer charges, the developer would be credited up to the $300,000 contribution.

The council had tabled the developer's requests four times since they were first introduced in March alongside proposed development agreements with Opus Development Co., which plans to build a 259-bed apartment building on Locust Street, and Collegiate Housing Partners, which plans to construct a 351-bed building on Conley Avenue.

The city originally tabled the agreement with American Campus Communities on March 19 because it was unable to provide the estimated five megawatts of electrical capacity the project would need. The requests were then tabled in May and July. The developer hired a new electrical engineer and worked with city staff to further refine the rezoning request and development agreement.

On Aug. 4, American Campus Communities presented the City Council with amended proposals that include a lower electrical capacity estimate of about two megawatts, Deputy City Manager Tony St. Romaine said. The city believes it can serve the project with power lines already in place and the addition of five to seven megawatts of power from a new feeder line from the Rebel Hill electric substation, he said.

The council tabled the requests at its Aug. 4 meeting because it voted to amend the development agreement and rezoning request. The amendments included additional landscaping, recycling and energy conservation requirements.

Commercial zoning changes

Other developers that want to build downtown will now be subject to strict zoning rules that deal with the height of buildings and parking and design requirements.

On Monday, the council also voted 5-2 to approve interim changes to the zoning code for the C-2 central business district. Most downtown developments fall under this type of zoning.

The city amended 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.

Council amended the regulations early Tuesday morning to lighten proposed parking requirements and include a minimum height requirement for downtown buildings.

The new zoning rules:

  • Require Columbia Planning and Zoning Commission's review and the council's approval of proposed downtown buildings of 10 stories — or 120 feet — or higher. All downtown buildings must be at least two stories tall.
  • Mandate a minimum number of parking spaces for new or expanded residential or mixed-use buildings. Developers would be required to provide one-quarter of a parking space for each new bedroom constructed. The council could make exceptions to reduce parking requirements.*
  • Forbid first-floor housing that faces the street on certain downtown blocks on Broadway and Ninth Street. Housing and business entryways would still be permitted facing the street.

Council did not vote on a sunset provision that the commission suggested be included in the interim C-2 zoning regulations. The commission proposed that 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.

A report outlining the first phase of the consultant's citywide zoning rewrite was delivered to city staff in July. The consultant has not yet outlined specific suggestions for downtown zoning. Those will be included in its second round of recommendations in October.

Supervising editor is Mary Ryan.

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