COLUMBIA — After more than an hour and a half debate Thursday night, the Planning and Zoning Commission failed to come up with a plan for the North Central Columbia Neighborhood Association urban conservation overlay district to recommend to the City Council.
“It’s like a civil war right now,” commission member Neil Cady said.
During the intense debate, the commission members, along with several members of the audience representing residents in opposition to the plan, expressed concerns with the current proposal.
Topics debated included whether or not residents that need a building permit from the city would be required to go before a mandatory, resident-appointed design review board for project approval and whether or not certain kinds of properties, such as schools or churches, should be exempt from restrictions.
Residents opposed to the current plan said the proposal was too vague to be written into law. Vague guidelines, they said, would place too much of a burden on developers and residents.
“I understand there are pictures (in the overlay district plan). I just don’t understand how someone’s going to interpret those pictures,” said Phebe LaMar, an attorney representing North Central residents opposed to the overlay district.
Commission member Helen Anthony said the building requirements had struck the right balance between flexibility and specificity.
“I think (the requirements) are very specific. They’re about as specific as we’re gonna get,” Anthony said. “I think if you make it too black and white, you’re gonna ruin it.”
Thursday’s debate follows another three and a half hour heated debate at the commission meeting on Oct. 4. At that meeting, the Planning and Zoning Commission tabled discussions of the North Central Columbia Neighborhood Association urban conservation overlay district until Dec. 6. The overlay was tabled pending work sessions like the one Thursday that would try and work through the about 50 community members’ concerns presented at the Oct. 4 meeting.
The North Central Columbia Neighborhood Association organized and then proposed the overlay district in 1993. The overlay is intended to solve problems of encroaching development through preserving and enhancing the neighborhoods. If the overlay is passed, residents will have more control by standardizing developments, redevelopments, alterations and other projects within the overlay. The rough draft of the overlay includes the North Village, Wyatt’s Market, Shoe Factory, Hickman Estates, West End and Uptown. Each of the six areas has its own design standards. The standards in each subdivison cover almost all angles of development in each area including windows, landscaping, roofing, and the appearance and style of entrances.
Two neighborhoods, Columbia-East Campus and Benton-Stephens are currently governed by overlay districts.
The commission will hold a public hearing Thursday and will try to incorporate debate from that meeting into a more specific proposal.