Intersection - Mayor Brian Treece Talks Zoning, Infrastructure and Downtown Parking

Apr 18, 2017

This week on Intersection, Columbia Mayor Brian Treece joins us to discuss the Unified Development Ordinance, which took effect at the end of March. The new zoning code is the biggest comprehensive reform to zoning in Columbia since the 1950s. Treece says some of the changes include strengthening protections for neighborhoods and increasing parking requirements for large residential developments.

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Treece explains form-based zoning, which allows a variety of businesses to operate in the same spaces, like downtown buildings with commercial stores on the first floor and apartments above.

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Treece says that the new zoning code raises the parking requirement on large apartment complexes to improve parking downtown. However, the parking requirement hasn’t changed for housing complexes with 20 bedrooms or less.

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Treece proposes that the temporary administrative delays on new development downtown may have prevented a housing bubble in Columbia.

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Main points from Mayor Brian Treece:

  • Treece believes that changing Columbia’s zoning code is an important step for the city. “When I was elected mayor 12 months ago, the downtown had grown so fast that we were running the risk of running out of infrastructure.”
  • Downtown Columbia’s rapid growth demands more than just increased physical infrastructure like electric lines or sewers, Treece says. “From the soft infrastructure standpoint: greater demand for police services, greater demand for fire services, greater demand for parking requirements. So I thought it was important to come in, ask [Columbia City Council] to take a pause.”
  • Treece says that the new code strikes a balance between neighborhood preservation and the needs of developers in the city. “I think everybody would agree, this was probably the most extraordinary democratization of a city council process they’d ever seen. We had over 30 witnesses that presented public testimony. That generated over 46 amendments to the zoning code… the result, I think, is a balanced approach that meets the needs of developers and property owners and investors, but also balances the very real interests of neighbors and stakeholders in this process.”
  • Treece stresses that the new zoning code will likely change as new situations arise. “Some call it a living document and I prefer to think of it a little more as a structured framework, knowing that we can’t anticipate the types of projects we ever thought of.”

Intersection’s producers are Meg Vatterott and Trevor Hook.