Columbia is growing and will continue to grow – city officials are sure about that.
The question for the city is how the city should develop as its population grows, and the answers will come, at least in part, from members of the community.
The city is hosting a three-day Plan Columbia workshop this week to draw input from local residents, business owners and community leaders about their vision for the city’s future growth and development.
Part of the city’s review of its comprehensive plan, the workshop is intended to help develop specific goals for land use that will guide the rewriting of zoning ordinances beginning early next year.
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Krista Hampton, director of city Planning and Development Services, said she is hoping community members will “think big picture” when setting goals at this week’s meetings.
“This is intended for people to really have a larger vision for Columbia,” Hampton said. “This process is not to think about, ‘Oh, my block, my house.’ Where do we really want to go?
“We are expecting a significant increase in population. Where are we going to put those people is what we are trying to figure out.”
State law requires local governments to review their comprehensive plans at least once every five years. Columbia is coordinating with Richland County to update their respective plans to address changing growth trends and patterns.
The city’s current land use goals are too vague to guide the rewriting of zoning ordinances, Hampton said, so the city’s objective this time around is to identify more specific needs for specific corridors and neighborhoods.
For instance, she said, the community will help decide what characteristics it wants to define an “urban” versus “suburban” area of the city.
The workshop will consist of two days of community input about Columbia’s strengths and weaknesses, followed by a day of summing up those ideas and identifying directions in which to pursue new land use goals, said city planning administrator John Fellows.
“There may be a clear direction the public has indicated or a few different directions we need to merge together,” Fellows said.
Some land use concerns the city has already heard about from residents include connectivity and walkability, Hampton said.
People are interested in “having a more seamless city, removing the barriers between our different districts and neighborhoods,” she said.