COLUMBIA — Discussion on the Neighborhood Protection Standards dominated the City Council’s first hearing on a proposed overhaul of zoning and development codes Monday.

The council opened its first public hearing on the new code by thanking the Planning and Zoning Commission for conducting nine months of public hearings and work sessions on the proposed overhaul. The City Council authorized the commission to consult with Clarion Associates on recommended changes to Columbia's existing zoning and development regulations in December 2013.

The proposed overhaul, which would replace the development regulations outlined in Chapters 20, 23, 25, 29 and parts of Chapter 12A in the city code, covers a wide range of rules including overlay districts, permitted land uses, subdivision standards, parking and loading, landscaping and screening, Neighborhood Protection Standards and downtown zoning rules. The new 400-page code is also known as the "Unified Development Code." 

The public hearing Monday night allotted up to 1 1/2 hours for public comment, but only two residents spoke on the matter. When the council set the schedule for public hearings on the code at its Feb. 6 meeting, it stipulated that a person may speak only one time for six minutes on the development code. The council would allow residents to speak a second time only after other residents had a chance to speak once.

Fourth Ward Councilman Ian Thomas said this stipulation might discourage people from speaking early in the process.

"I think that we'll have a massive public hearing at the end because people can only speak one time and want to speak at the end," Thomas said.

Mayor Brian Treece emphasized that he wanted people to speak sooner rather than later so the council can take their comments into consideration throughout the revision process.

The council will continue the public hearing at a special meeting Saturday and at its regular March 6 and March 20 meetings.

Neighborhood Protection Standards

One contested part of the proposed code, the Neighborhood Protection Standards, is intended to prevent apartments or other developments from encroaching on single-family homes or duplexes. The standards would restrict building heights, parking and lighting on any new developments that share a border with an R-1 or R-2 lot.

For example, the code would require developers to either "step down" to no more than 24 feet tall any part of their building that is within 25 feet of a lot line shared with a single-family home or duplex or to build their development no closer than 10 feet from the lot lines.

Some property owners, like East Campus Majority Housing Association President Tim Waid, worried the standards would prohibit them from expanding their commercial properties or limit their ability to maximize their properties’ potential .

"Neighborhood Protection Standards are not intended for existing properties," Waid said. "They're intended for new development and to apply these to existing properties will devalue property because we need to move back."

Peter Yronwode spoke in favor of the Neighborhood Protection Standards for neighborhoods like Benton-Stephens and East Campus.

"I do think that it's very important to remember that the point ... is to reduce the impact of multi-residential property development within these residential areas and to preserve their character," Yronwode said. "Unless the protections for R-1 and R-2 are strengthened, that simply will not be accomplished."

Downtown zoning changes

Several of the changes introduced in the proposed new code focus on downtown, which would change from C-2, central business district, to M-DT, downtown, under the new code. No residents addressed the changes to the downtown zoning Monday night, but they are some of the largest changes to the zoning code.

If approved, the code would impose "form-based" zoning rules on new construction in The District. "Form-based" zoning governs building appearance rather than use.

The downtown zoning would span generally from Park Avenue on the north to Elm Street on the south and from Garth Avenue on the west to Willis Avenue on the east. The new downtown zoning would incorporate some areas that do not currently have the same C-2 zoning as The District.

Proposed building forms for downtown would include "urban storefront," "urban general," "urban general — west" and "townhouse/small apartment." The standards would require properties on Ninth Street from Walnut to Elm streets and on Broadway from Eighth to Hitt streets to house retail shops or restaurants on their ground floors.

Buildings with the "urban general" form, the most common designation within the new downtown zoning, could have commercial, residential or municipal uses.

The code would impose height restrictions on buildings in The District according to the blocks on which they are located. Buildings in the area encompassed by Fifth, Hitt, Locust and Walnut streets could be at most 10 stories high, while all other areas with the "urban general" or "urban storefront" classifications could stand at most six stories tall. The smallest height a building with one of these forms could have is two stories.

The Planning and Zoning Commission designated a separate building form for the western portion of downtown zoning district to support gradual increases in pedestrian traffic in the area. Buildings in this area, west of Providence Road, could be a single story tall, but could not exceed six stories.

Buildings with the "townhouse/small apartment" form would be two to four stories tall, and some lots along eastern Locust Street, Hitt Street and College, Park and Garth avenues would be zoned according to this form.

Benton-Stephens neighborhood downzoning

The council also approved in a consent agenda vote the downzoning of 35 lots in the Benton-Stephens Neighborhood. 

Thirty-four of the lots will be downzoned from R-3, which allows multi-family use, to R-1, which allows only single-family homes. One lot was downzoned to R-2.

Owners of the properties proposed the downzoning to protect what they view as the single-family character of the neighborhood. The request came as the council began holding hearings on the proposed Unified Development Code, which would place new restrictions on lots adjacent to R-1 zoned parcels, according to previous Missourian reporting.

The downzoning was placed on the council's consent agenda after the Planning and Zoning Commission unanimously approved the plan.

Supervising editors are Scott Swafford and Tyler Wornell.

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