Survey says residents unhappy with pace of development

Sunday, June 24, 2007 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 1:09 a.m. CDT, Thursday, July 17, 2008

Columbia is a fast-changing town with the constant sprawl of new developments. But people’s unhappiness with growth remains fairly constant.

The third DirectionFinder survey commissioned by the city shows that about 40 percent of residents are either dissatisfied or very dissatisfied with how the city has been planning for growth. According to the study, 75 percent also thought that multi-family residential development is occurring too fast.

Survey results

    Other findings of the 2007 Columbia DirectionFinder survey:
  • 84 percent satisfied with the overall quality of services in Columbia
  • 84 percent satisfied with the quality of life in the city
  • 90 percent satisfied with the quality of city parks and recreation programs and facilities
  • 28 percent satisfied with the condition of Columbia’s streets
  • 84 percent satisfied with the quality of fire protection and fire response time
  • 76 percent satisfied with quality of local police services
  • 24 percent satisfied with snow removal on neighborhood streets
  • 53 percent agree the city is open to citizen involvement/ideas
  • 35 percent satisfied with the availability of downtown parking

The survey aimed “to assess citizen satisfaction with the delivery of major city services and to help determine priorities for the community.” The ETC Institute in Kansas sampled 1,800 Columbia residents for the survey.

Third Ward Councilman Karl Skala said he was not surprised by the findings because he had heard a lot of concerns about growth in his recent election campaign.

“The good news in that entire survey is that generally the public is pleased with city services and staff that the city provides,” Skala said. “The downside is people are anxious to deal with the explosive growth that has been going on.”

Skala said he hopes a joint plan by the Columbia and the Boone County planning and zoning commissions will help create a more equitable approach to growth in Columbia. The growth management plan, which will be brought to the City Council, suggests that development should only occur in areas where existing roads and sewer systems are sufficient to support it, Skala said.

Land-use attorney Craig Van Matre agreed that people’s dissatisfaction is related to insufficient infrastructure. He said it’s absurd that the government could regulate the supply of commodities and do a good job with that.

“It isn’t the city that overbills,” Van Matre said. “It’s private developers that think they know what the society needs in terms of housing, and they go out and try and meet that kind of demand.”

Don Stamper, executive director of the Central Missouri Development Council, said he had many questions about the survey’s conclusions, and his group is planning to ask the city about the specifics of the methodology. Stamper added that, in his experience, residents do indeed want to have greater confidence in the planning process, but there is no straightforward solution to that.

One group that has been working to open discussion about city growth is the Vision Committee. Skala, who was an active participant in the early stages of the committee’s work, said he has high expectations for the outcome.

“I think people will be amazed at the number and quality of ideas that come out of the group about where our city is headed,” Skala said.

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