Plans for denser development in east Columbia concern residents

BY Eric Holmberg

COLUMBIA — Bill Stalter and his family moved to the outskirts of Columbia on Dec. 29, 2007, from Bloomington, Ill. Their five-bedroom home was nearly ideal.

Stalter’s commute to his job at the Callaway Nuclear Generating plant near Fulton is usually untouched by traffic, but Stalter fears his community will change.

“I love my house. It’s a great house. I like my neighborhood. It’s a great neighborhood, but we’re going to ruin it all,” Stalter said.

Stalter, 54, hoped this would be his last move, but after attending four of the five meetings on the East Columbia Area Plan, he’s not so sure.

“I was wanting to retire here and stay here, but if they start building too much, I’ll move. I’m not going to put up with that,” Stalter said.

In the fifth and final public input session, the Columbia Planning and Zoning Commission and the Boone County Planning and Zoning Commission presented a draft plan for future land use and growth management.

Growth and development crossing over to the eastern side of U.S. 63 is a relatively new phenomenon, said Thaddeus Yonke, the senior planner for Boone County.

“For 30 years, nothing’s changed out here. We had no plan for any improvements under the county regulations from 1973 until the sewer extensions went up, because we didn’t need them … because there wasn’t any significant growth out here,” Yonke said. “So, nothing changed for 30 years. Well, that (has) changed, and now the plan has to happen because we have had that growth.”

While new commercial areas within the plan are limited, residents feared that new residential areas might outstrip their roads and infrastructure. With every development proposal, Boone County requires a study to analyze the impact of increased traffic and makes developers pay to upgrade existing roads.

“I’ve been a proponent since I’ve been on the board of infrastructure first and development second; I can’t say it enough,” said Helen Anthony, a member of the Columbia Planning and Zoning Commission. “I think the county has it figured out in terms of if the infrastructure’s not there, it doesn’t get done.”

The city is open to including some sort of traffic evaluation criteria with any future development in the East Columbia Area Plan, said Pat Zenner, city development services manager.

The city also revealed its plan to build higher density developments with the goal of preserving more of the environment.

Traditional subdivisions give residents bigger lots and more space in between houses, but do not allow for as many dedicated environmental areas in the plan.

“There are reasons that people choose to live in a more traditional subdivision,” Columbia resident Karen Bentley said during the meeting. “Not everybody wants to look out their bathroom window into somebody else’s bathroom window.”

With five of the six chapters of the draft plan completed, the Columbia Planning and Zoning Commission will write an implementation chapter that provides guidelines on how to monitor how the plan is put into action.

An introductory chapter and executive summary will be the last pieces to the draft, which will be completed next week.

The commission will hold two public hearings to present a completed draft of the entire East Columbia Area Plan to the public. The meetings will be held at 6 p.m. on Sept. 16 and 30 in the City Council chamber, 701 E. Broadway.

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