Columbia Zoning Changes Could Add More Housing Options

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COLUMBIA - The Community Development Department will host a public input meeting Wednesday to get feedback on adding additional housing in the central city neighborhoods.

The meeting will be held at 6:00 p.m. at city hall.

In November of 2012 the Columbia City Council asked the Community Development Department to prepare an amendment to the Zoning Regulations. Since then, the Community Development Department has been working with the Planning and Zoning Commission. The initial draft will be discussed at the meeting.

City Planner Steve MacIntyre said the specific type of housing proposed is Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs) within R-2 and higher residential zoning classifications. 

"An Accessory Dwellings Unit is a second home on an existing single family property," MacIntyre said. "So, if you have a lot with a single family home on it an accessory dwelling unit would be a smaller home that you could add onto the same property."

Currently, R-2 lots can have a single two-family home, but restrictions do not allow tenants to have a detached second home.

Under the new ADU ordinance, second homes can be attached to the principal house, or built as a detached structure. The City of Columbia said an example of an attached unit could be a basement apartment, and a detached unit could be above a detached garage.

MacIntyre said one of the goals of the ADU ordinance is to provide an alternative to redevelopment, specifically, to maintain historical housing stock and neighborhood character.

"We are not necessarily against any type of redevelopment," MacIntyre said. "However there are several neighborhoods, especially in the central city, where there is a certain type and characteristic of housing stock, architectural features and a certain age of homes that has a particular look and it is difficult to replicate that and maintain that typology."

MacIntyre said the city is focusing on the central city neighborhoods because in those areas there are a lot of historical lots that tend to be narrow and often times deep. MacIntyre said having a stand-alone option could be accommodated easily in these deeper lot configurations, and having a traditional or more typical side-by-side duplex would not be easy to accommodate.

The single-family R-2 lots that meet the ADU ordinance requirements are concentrated between Business Loop 70 West, North Garth, West Broadway, and Clinkscales.

The city said an estimated 2,000 homes could be added with this ordinance. MacIntyre said the city does not have any prediction who might use the ADUs, but there is a key element in the concept.

"Whoever ends up living in these units would be integrated into a real neighborhood as part of a normal healthy environment," MacIntyre said. "Rather than creating a student ghetto, as they are sometimes called, or any particular homogeneous type of living situation the central city neighborhoods already have an existing group of tenants. So our hope really is that the neighborhood character would be maintained and this would add an opportunity to anyone who wants a smaller more intimate integrating living environment opposed to living in a large apartment complex else where in town."

The city is not expecting a ton of applications for ADU's because it does not affect R-1 housing. MacIntyre said he doesn't believe this is a solution to all of the problems downtown, but it is a good starting point.

"This is something that has been supported by the comprehensive plan as part of the walk able community approach," MacIntyre said. "Up until recently they were lacking a convenient grocery store downtown... If we want to continue growing and adding services for central city neighbors I think this is a viable solution and opportunity that they might want to embrace. It provides an opportunity for neighbors or current residents to rent out their houses and have a supplemental source of income on their existing property."

The city said after the Central City Focus Group gathers public input from the most affected neighborhoods on Wednesday, then their input will be incorporated into another draft. Next, the Planning and Zoning Commission will hold a public recommendation and hearing. Finally, the city council will have a public hearing and adopt the ordinance.

For additional information on the ADU ordinance, you can visit the Community Development page on the City of Columbia's website.