The Columbia Planning and Zoning Commission held two public hearings at its regular meeting Thursday night.
There may be a new hotel next to Columbia Mall in the near future, but the commission recommended that Rice Road keep its name.
The commission's recommendations will be carried to the Columbia City Council for further approval or denial.
The first hearing regarded the hotel development.
Cochran Engineering requested a major amendment to the Columbia Mall PD Development Plan. The plan asked the city to allow the owners of the Columbia Mall LLC to split the existing lot located at the southwest corner of Interstate 70 and Stadium Boulevard to create a new 1.58-acre lot for the hotel.
The new hotel building would be a Tru by Hilton, a millennial-inspired hotel, according to previous Missourian reporting. Hilton describes these hotels as "vibrant, affordable and young-at-heart" and "energetic, yet relaxing and comfortable" on its website.
said the hotel would be four stories tall, have a maximum height of 50 feet and consist of 110 rooms. He also said its development would take away approximately 105 parking spots. This would leave only about 60 spots on the lot, even as the hotel would increase the demand for parking. Smith also noted the landscape plan would increase the lot's green space.
The city staff recommended approval of this change.
"We did find that this adjustment is fairly consistent with the pattern on this site," Smith said.
Cochran also requested a design modification that would waive the 6-foot-wide buffer on the lot required by the Columbia Mall PD plan.
Elliott Reed, professional engineer at Cochran, said the developers would nearly double the number of street trees to make up for the loss of landscaping from the buffer.
"The landscaping in and around the new hotel parcel will be an improvement over the existing condition of a mostly unused excess parking lot," Reed wrote in the design modification report.
Commissioner Sara Loe and other commissioners expressed her support and desire for more street trees but disapproved of the request in light of the fact that street trees are already required by the city.
"I don't really want to promote what I would consider to be poor urban planning," Loe said.
The commission passed the motion to approve the splitting of the lot, subject to the submission of a design plan following the city's landscaping design standards.
The second public hearing involved a potential name change for Rice Road. D&D Investments of Columbia LLC plans to develop homes on Rice Road and requested the city rename the street to Geyser Boulevard.
Mark Farnen, government relations consultant for the developers, said D&D has followed all city rules with the new name and argued that the developer should be able to rename the street because it paid $1 million to extend the road.
The name change would extend beyond the part of the road paid for by D&D. The affected portion would begin at Ballenger Lane and continue east to Lake of the Woods Road.
City staff recommended the commission deny the change because it would affect the continuity of the street name and could be disruptive to residents living on the street.
Farnen said the change would not affect residents significantly and that 88% of the people they asked on the street approved of the change.
D&D has stated in the past it is concerned about a negative connotation the name Rice Road has in relation to crimes that have been committed on the road in the past.
"To dispute the fact that Rice has a bad connotation to it right now would be wrong," Farnen said. "I can't do it. It does."
He said the first question he asked when he was asked to help with this request was: Is this "the same Rice Road where they're shooting people up and having the problems right now?"
Rodney Johnson said he has lived on the corner of Rice Road and Ballenger Lane for 10 years. He shared his disproval of the proposed name change.
"The intent to rename this road is for financial gain and also to deceive the public," Johnson said. "I don't think by renaming this road that they will divulge information as far as how many murders have happened just down the block from where I live. We have to include this information."
Others mentioned those purchasing homes in the area would most likely discover the history of crime in the area regardless of the street name.
Commissioner Anthony Stanton said he commended the developers for bringing affordable housing to the area but asked why the developers wouldn't want to bring improvement to the area with the current name. The various developers said the connotation would prevent the sale of houses.
The commission's motion to approve the renaming of Rice Road failed, recommending the denial of the proposed change.
Both recommendations from the public hearings will be carried to City Council for further approval or denial.