Growth & Development

Help Plan Columbia’s Future

By Eva Moore
Wednesday, June 18, 2014 |
Richland County and the City of Columbia are both writing new land use plans — comprehensive visions for how the region should grow and how its neighborhoods should look and feel. And they want your help.

“That land use plan is then going to be used to influence how we rewrite our zoning codes,” says John Fellows, the city’s planning administrator.

The city’s zoning laws, which date to the 1970s, are truly outdated.

“The current regulations from the ’70s were developed at a time when we were increasingly suburbanizing,” says Krista Hampton, director of planning and development services. “That’s still a pattern we have,” she says, which they plan to retain. But they have to recognize that the city’s now urbanizing.

Outdated zoning is a competitive disadvantage for Columbia, say Hampton and Fellows.

“Our development regulations and zoning code are almost unintelligible to the layperson at this point,” Hampton says. “I don’t want someone to have to call staff to do a project. I want them to open up the regulations and say ‘Here’s what I need to do.’”

“From an economic development perspective, if it looks like it’s going to be easier for someone to develop a business park [elsewhere] because it’s easier for them to look at the code and they look at ours and get confused,” Fellows adds, the developer might go elsewhere.

The city hired a consultant with up to a $400,000 budget to help guide both processes. And it all begins with a series of public input sessions to which everyone — new and longtime residents, homeowners, renters, developers, business owners — is invited.

Want to get involved? Here’s how.

Plan Columbia Workshop

Tuesday, June 24, 6-8 p.m.: A hands-on, workshop-style session.

Wednesday, June 25, 9 a.m.-noon and 2-4:30 p.m.: Drop in, chat with the consultants, offer feedback.

Thursday, June 26 6-8 p.m.: A wrap-up session covering what’s been learned the previous two days.

All sessions will be held at the Columbia Metropolitan Convention Center, Ballroom A. For more information and to RSVP, visit weplantogether.org.

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