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COLUMBIA - The city will hold a public hearing Thursday on a new document that covers all issues regarding "development," known as te Unified Development Code.

"There will be a large learning curve for the applicants, the owners, of those properties that are looking to develop them into something different than they are today," said Rusty Strodtman, Chair of the Columbia Planning and Zoning Commission.

This process began in 2014 and a draft was finished in October of last year. Public hearings throughout the summer months of 2016 helped the city's Planning and Zoning Commission produce a final draft to be heard Thursday.

One of the biggest changes is to the zoning classification in the central business district, also known as C-2.

"That is probably the most open and least restrictive of all the zoning in the city of Columbia. As a result, a lot of the student housing that we've seen built downtown is in C-2 districts," Strodtman said.

Once the new code is approved, the downtown area will move to a hybrid of a form-based zoning district classification called M-DT (mixed-use downtown).

"It's more about how the building fits into its neighborhood and less focused on the use. Form-based is very heavy on pedestrian walking, biking, less vehicular traffic, and that's why it's only being considered in the downtown area," Strodtman said.

Thursday's meeting is public, so the commission will take the community's thoughts into account one more time before recommending the code to the city council.

Strodtman said if there are little to no changes to be made, the council could hear the code in early December. After an implementation period, he said the code could go into effect as soon as first quarter of 2017.