The residential streets of tomorrow are going to be narrower and lined with 5-foot sidewalks. That was the conclusion reached Monday night by the Columbia City Council, which voted 7-1 to change the city’s current street-design standards.
The proposed changes, drafted by the Street Standards and Planning Group, have taken nearly two years to come to fruition.
Discussion of the proposed changes lasted for more than three hours after Mayor Darwin Hindman reopened the issue for further debate. While many lauded the changes as a way of making sidewalks more accessible to wheelchair users, not everyone agreed that the overall scheme would be a boon in the community.
Planning and Zoning Commission chair Jerry Wade, who acted as facilitator during the planning group’s meetings, said much to dissuade council members that the proposed changes would result in higher construction costs.
Citing a 2001 report produced by the National Association of Home Builders, as well as data from other cities that have implemented similar standards, Wade said he “could find nothing to support the theory that narrower roads would cost more.”
Area developers have said that while narrower roads would cost less to build, those savings would be offset by the need to build drainage inlets to accommodate an increase in storm-water flow.
Don Stamper, a representative of the Central Missouri Development Council, directly refuted the idea that narrower residential streets would be less expensive.
“These streets are not cheaper,” he said. “At best they are cost-neutral.”
Stamper said that while the planning group produced a “good level of work” in crafting the changes to the city’s street design standard — changes he said the Central Missouri Development Council supported — he wanted to make it clear that these changes ultimately could mean higher costs to homeowners.
The changes would be the first revision of the city’s street design standards since the 1960s.