Changes in law needed to avoid planning errors

Wednesday, July 25, 2007 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 8:00 p.m. CDT, Sunday, July 20, 2008

It is truly amazing what one savvy land owner can do to change the face of development in Boone County. All he had to do was donate a portion of land to the school board and — voilà — we have a new infrastructure problem. The school administration and the school board (even over time) have proven clueless to these kinds of tactics. Mill Creek Elementary School on Vauter School Road is another example of donated land — an elementary school that stops traffic during the morning rush hour and in the afternoon on a major roadway.

While the land owner increases the price of his remaining land by drawing development away from the north and toward his property, he gives county taxpayers a multi-million-dollar tax bill for water, sewer and road improvements. The county doesn’t appear to have money to even maintain the current roads.

And, not only did the Columbia School District make a mistake on the infrastructure, they picked the wrong sector of the city for this placement. The location of the high school on the north side would serve to promote development north of the interstate, creating a more balanced urban development pattern on the north and south sides of the interstate.

If voters are upset about what uncontrolled development has done to our infrastructure problems, they have to be furious at how the school board can naively create an even greater infrastructure gap. Chris Mallory and Phyllis Chase should apologize to the voters for this colossal blunder. They aren’t planners and they should refer facility placement to a planning commission before a final decision.

While it is getting too late to do any planning with these major blunders, I still believe we need two changes in our state law. First there should be a joint city/county planning commission for all land use on a two-mile periphery of the city limits for any city over 50,000. Second, there should be mandatory referral requiring all special taxing districts to refer their plans for new facilities to the appropriate planning commission. This would create the full review process to help avoid these one-dimensional decisions.

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