Property owners encouraged to learn more about new zoning, planning rules

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COLUMBIA – A panel of experts said new codes on planning and zoning will drastically change what can be built in town and how it can be constructed.

The Columbia Chamber of Commerce held its second educational forum on the Unified Development Ordinance (UDO) Tuesday morning. The event is designed to help educate Columbia business owners about the nearly 400-pages of new codes, which include more than 1,000 changes to how the city regulates planning, construction and zoning. 

Attorney Caleb Colbert, who is on the panel, encourages everyone to read the document.

"It will change the ways we do business and development in Columbia for the next 30 to 40 years," he said.

The new rules:

  • Modify zoning districts
  • Propose new "form-based" design standards for downtown
  • Create new subdivision regulations
  • Modify parking requirements

Colbert said the "center piece" of the new regulation is design restrictions on businesses and buildings downtown.

Colbert said it’s more challenging for small business owners because there’s more that’s required in terms of open space and parking setbacks.

“It would affect property owners that want to redevelop their property in the downtown area," Colbert said. "There’s a concern that large business owners will easily be able to comply to all of the new regulations, but they’ll be more burdensome for small business owners."

The changes include regulations that would further limit the size of housing developments, requiring 50 percent green space instead of 25 percent; mandating a storm water plan; increasing off-street parking requirements; and eliminating a breezeway loophole for new housing developments. 

He said some of the concerns he hears from property owners are:"How does this affect my property?" and "What can I do with my property after this zoning ordinance goes into effect?"

Colbert said the only way to fully understand the complex ordinance is to read it or attend the educational forums. 

The Planning and Zoning Commission are currently reviewing the draft. It will  consider the proposed code for the next two months. During the meetings, residents can make public comments on what will be forwarded to the City Council for consideration.  

The Columbia Chamber of Commerce said on its website, “It would be a monumental task for an individual to become familiar with all of the changes and how that would affect them individually or their business.”

Colbert said, “The educational forums are there to get people up to speed on the highlights of the new zoning regulations. It's in everybody’s best interest to pay attention to what’s going on and offer any comments or suggestions if they have any.”

The next educational forum is schedule July 13 at the Columbia Chamber of Commerce.