COLUMBIA — Columbia residents have spoken, and they said environmental, transportation and economic development issues are where the community needs the most improvement.
The Community Choices Open House on Sept. 13 was the public’s last chance to provide direct input to the vision for Columbia’s future. The top six priorities identified by the 470 participants are:
- 1. (With 135 votes) Preserve open space, farmland, natural beauty and critical environmental areas using techniques promoted by the International City/County Management Association’s publication “Getting to Smart Growth: 100 Policies for Implementation.” Category: Environment, Subtopic: Environmental Quality.
- 2. (With 132 votes) Develop the necessary infrastructure to support emerging technology industries, including high-tech business parks, community Internet access and a skilled workforce. Category: Economic Development, Subtopic: Science and Technology
- 3. (With 124 votes) Increase connectivity by flying to major airline hubs and adding other airlines with a variety of flight times. Category: Economic Development, Subtopic: Airport.
- 4. (With 122 votes) Expand the public transit system and identify and fill in existing gaps in that system to include longer hours of service, more frequent service and greater coverage of the city. Category: Transportation, Subtopic: Public and Human Transportation Services.
- 5. (With 107 votes) Create a Regional Science and Technology Network with access to the distinctive business and technical competencies needed to identify, develop and launch entrepreneurial high-tech businesses in our area (i.e., a “Springboard Program”). Category: Economic Development, Subtopic: Science and Technology.
- 6. (With 106 votes) Promote positive attitudes toward economic development. Category: Economic Development, Subtopic: Economic Development.
Three of these priorities matched up with the preliminary survey conducted by The Columbia Missourian at the open house. Out of 97 people surveyed, 33 voted for preserving open space, farmland, natural beauty and critical environmental areas as a top priority. The expansion of the public transit system and the addition of flights to major hubs were also in the top six, receiving 23 and 21 votes.
The open house was held at the Kimball Ballroom at Lela Raney Wood Hall at Stephens College; 470 people participated, using blue stickers to choose their top priorities from among 118 strategies for improving Columbia in the future.
The next step in the visioning process will be finalizing the Vision Plan, which will include all the strategies from the 13 Citizen Topic Groups. These strategies include the top six priorities from the Community Choices Open House. These priorities will be put in a special section listing Columbia’s priorities for the future. The final draft of the Vision Plan will be presented to the Sponsor’s Council later this year. If approved, the report will then go to the Columbia City Council.