The effect of public input made an impact during Monday’s meeting of the Columbia City Council.
One action item on the agenda involved rezoning a residential area abutting the east end of the Bob Brockland Pontiac GMC vehicle dealership lot off Old Route 3 near Skyline Drive.
The item, which would have rezoned the area from R-5 residential to C-3 business, was tabled after public comments brought new information to light.
Donna Biondo, a resident who lives near the dealership, spoke to the council about her concerns.
Referring to the rezoning ordinance, which stated the “current R-5 zoning likely contributes to diminishing (the Brockland lot) property’s value,” Biondo claimed that rezoning “would be a hardship” to the residents of Skyline, including decreasing their own properties’ values.
Biondo, a lifelong resident of the area, brought pictures of the current “evergreen landscape screening barrier” that was put in place when the original Brockland lot was constructed, stating the barrier was not of the quality that was promised.
Ward I Alderman James Agne agreed with Bionda, stating that what he saw in the pictures was definitely “not dense planting,” adding that if the ordinance was passed as written, residents would likely see the same sub-par barrier construction again.
“It will just get worse,” Biondo stated, reminding the council that the current layout is “already negatively impacting single-family homes.”
In light of Biondo’s comments, several aldermen spoke in favor of tabling the matter until a more concrete plan could be presented.
“I’d like to see a more conservative approach,” said Ward II Alderman Mark Roessler, who also questioned the wisdom in giving the dealership “carte blanche” in light of the new information.
Roessler was also informed that no one in the area was given written notice of the potential rezoning, a practice the city is no longer required to perform.
“It seems like encroaching into their neighborhood,” Roessler commented.
Ward III Alderman Jeff Huch said he “couldn’t support (rezoning) with what it’s going to do the residents. They have already suffered from it.”
Columbia Mayor Kevin Hutchinson suggested tabling the item, and it was voted unanimously to do so.
In other action, the council voted to hire Andrew Allen as a full-time member of the Columbia Police Department.
Allen, who has already completed police academy training, had been working for three departments as a part-time officer before being hired in Columbia.
The council also voted to establish a Park & Recreation Advisory Board.
This board will replace the existing Columbia PLAY Commission, which is an outdated designation. The current PLAY Commission members will be the inaugural members of the newly established advisory board.
Columbia City Engineer Chris Smith gave an update on the Streetscape Project.
“The project is moving along well,” Smith said, adding that “Baxmeyer (Construction) is doing a great job.”
The meeting began with Hutchinson reading a proclamation declaring October as Domestic Violence Awareness Month.
“As citizens, we must make a commitment to reduce and eliminate domestic violence, to raise awareness of this crisis in our communities, to help survivors break free from the cycle of violence and to hold offenders accountable for their crimes,” the proclamation read.
Kay Clements, former Waterloo High School teacher and mother of a victim of domestic violence, was on hand to accept the proclamation.
The council also recognized former city administrator and recent interim city administrator Al Hudzik for taking the position while the city looked for a replacement for former administrator Jimmy Morani, who resigned in May.
The council has since hired Douglas Brimm for the position.
Hutchinson closed the meeting by reminding residents that the census is pending and that it would benefit the city to have “every head counted.”