Intersection - Neighborhood Conservation and Real Estate Development in Columbia

Apr 25, 2017

This week on Intersection, we continue our look at Columbia's new Unified Development Ordinance. 

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Last week we talked with Columbia Mayor Brian Treece about the city's new Unified Development Ordinance, which took effect at the end of March. If you missed that conversation, you can listen here.

Along with the new code, the Benton-Stephens neighborhood strengthened its conservation overlay, which sets forth additional standards for development in that area, and residents also down zoned 34 lots. This week we talked with neighborhood association president Peter Norgard about those changes. We also sat down with Jim Meyer, president of Columbia Board of Realtors and managing broker of Meyer Works LLC, to hear his concerns on how the new Unified Development Ordinance could negatively impact development in Columbia.Benton-Stephens residents down zoned 34 lots from their previous R-3 status. 33 moved to R-1 and one moved to R-2. Here’s what those titles mean:

  • R-1: One-family dwelling district
  • R-2: Two-family dwelling district
  • R-3: Medium density multiple-family dwelling district

Norgard said that he, along with other neighborhood activists, thought that the neighborhood protections in the Unified Development Ordinance weren’t strong enough, which is why the neighborhood petitioned to downzone. However, he said he recognizes that compromise has to be made between developers and homeowners.

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Meyer said that he believes parts of the new code, like the building height limit of 10 stories, are restricting the housing and development market in Columbia, particularly downtown. 

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More from Peter Norgard and Jim Meyer:

  • Meyer said he is concerned that moving forward it will be difficult to change or update the code to address concerns that arise, particularly those of the business community. “All of those comments have been marginalized, shunned to the side, ignored throughout this 18 months that I have been a participant in this process. I think it (Unified Development Ordinance) will be tweaked in certain ways, but it won't be addressed in a way that affects the fundamental concerns I have with it.”
  • Norgard said Benton-Stephens first had a conservation overlay put in place in the early 2000s. The overlay put extra restrictions on R-3 lots, requiring 25 percent of the lot to be green space. The updated overlay, which was passed with the new development code, requires 50 percent of the lot to be green space and tightened parking restrictions.
  • Norgard said that the neighborhood has another ordinance going in front of city council soon, this time regarding parking permits. “There's a number of people in the neighborhood that don't think that it's going to help. It might just make the problem move or change the dynamics of the problem. And then there's a lot of people in neighborhood that just want to see something.”