Neighborhood Association, firms at odds over urban conservation overlay

If approved, the plan would restrict developments in the neighborhood.
Friday, October 5, 2007 | 12:35 a.m. CDT; updated 11:53 p.m. CDT, Sunday, July 20, 2008

COLUMBIA — Members of the North-Central Columbia Neighborhood Association sparred with commercial developers at a city Planning and Zoning Commission meeting Thursday night over a proposal that would give residents more control over the future appearance of their neighborhood.

The Planning and Zoning Commission tabled the proposal for the urban conservation overlay district until its Dec. 6 meeting, after about 50 residents attended the meeting and spoke for more than three and a half hours. The overlay would be a series of extra zoning requirements to further control development and improve aesthetics. A work session is planned for Nov. 15.

The overlay proposal was created by neighborhood residents, who first organized in 1993 when they became worried about encroaching development. Residents say the plan would preserve and enhance their neighborhood by allowing them to exert more control over new developments, redevelopments, building alterations and other projects.

Two neighborhoods in Columbia — East Campus and Benton-Stephens ­— are already governed by overlay regulations.

The proposal would also create a city-appointed design review panel that would oversee development requests to make sure they are compliant with defined standards. Participation in the design review panel would be required, but its recommendations would be advisory.

The proposed overlay district would cover a 320-acre area stretching to Business Loop 70 to the north; Ash Street and Walnut Street to the south; College Avenue to the east; and Providence Road to the west. About 600 people own property in the neighborhood.

Primary on commercial developers’ list of concerns is the mandatory review board, which critics say would draw out redevelopment and approval of home improvements. The Columbia Chamber of Commerce, Central Missouri Development Council, Columbia Board of Realtors and the Home Builders Association of Columbia are among those opposed to the overlay plan. Phebe La Mar, a Columbia attorney, also represented 23 businesses who object to the proposal.

“We think this thing has more holes in it than a strainer,” said Don Stamper, executive director of the Central Missouri Development Council.

Stamper recommended that the review board be voluntary and that incentives be offered for complying with the process.

A list of restricted neighborhood stores and shops, which would be banned from all future development, also came under fire. The types of stores on the list included temporary shelters, printing plants and adult video stores.

“You just can’t zone us away,” said John Hawkins of the adult video store Bocomo Bay.

Linda Rootes, the president of the governing board of the North-Central Columbia Neighborhood Association, said the list was the result of a brainstorming session.

“We have known all along that wouldn’t be the final list,” Rootes said.

Two members of the Planning and Zoning Commission said the list of restricted businesses should be thrown out.

Those opposed to the overlay district said the needed investment for the proposal would exceed any potential profits, said Carol Van Gorp, executive officer of the Columbia Board of Realtors. Others argue that property values would drop.

Within the North-Central neighborhood, six communities — North Village, Wyatt’s Market, Shoe Factory, Hickman Estates, West End and Uptown — would be broken down and given their own set of design standards, which cover nearly every aspect of development in the neighborhood, such as porch restorations, roof alterations and the appearance and stye of entrances, windows and landscapes. Larger goals are to increase affordable housing and economic development while enhancing quality of life.

City Planning and Zoning commissioners will hold work sessions to review unresolved concerns, discuss the plan and review any major changes before it is brought before the City Council.

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