The city wants your input, and that’s news to some people.
In an effort to better increase communication between the public and city planners, the Columbia Planning and Zoning Commission formed a 12-member committee last week that includes representatives from various public organizations and private companies.
The committee will assess the city’s policies and procedures regarding development issues, said Assistant City Manager Bill Watkins.
The effort comes after several recent land-use controversies, including the West Broadway Wal-Mart plan and the city’s planned purchase of property for a fire station in the Green Meadows neighborhood. The Columbia City Council directed the formation of the committee, and the group’s evaluation process is expected to take six months to a year.
“I suspect that a number of council members have had development occur in their ward, and some of their residents thought that we could do a better job in letting neighbors know about proposals and changes in proposals,” Watkins said.
Committee member Paul Ladehoff welcomes the change.
“I think that the city’s trying to be responsive to citizens’ concerns about the process,” said Ladehoff, who is also training coordinator for the MU Center for the Study of Dispute Resolution. “We certainly want to sit down and take a good, long look at the system,” he said.
The committee will forward its recommendations to the Planning and Zoning Commission, which will then hold public hearings and pass the final recommendations to the city council.
“It’s important for people who are affected by (planning and zoning) to be sure that the process is as transparent as possible and as fair as possible,” said committee member Frank Schmidt. “We need a process to make sure everyone is working from the same playbook.”
Columbia has periodically formed such committees, said Ladehoff, and the system is due another evaluation in regard to public communication.
“It’s one of those natural things that happen in a city like Columbia. It’s time again,” Ladehoff said, adding that discussions will include topics such as the timing of public notifications and who receives notification.
The committee, to be officially known as the Procedures Stakeholders Work Group, will include a range of members, from city officials to Realtors to developers.
Planning and Zoning Chairman Jerry Wade picked the members, who will meet monthly.
“I think the goal is to have robust discussions and many view points represented,” Ladehoff said.