Columbia begins comprehensive plan process

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Monday night approved a recommendation to select Shockey Consulting for its upcoming comprehensive plan project and for GIS services.

Columbia Director of Community Development Scott Dunakey, who will also be the comprehensive plan project manager, along with Columbia City Administrator Doug Brimm, Columbia City Engineer Chris Smith and Columbia Assistant to the City Administrator Sue Spargo evaluated and scored several bids for the project, with Shockey Consulting attaining the top score. 

Shockey Consulting was also voted for recommendation to the council by the Columbia Plan Commission at its Aug. 10 meeting.

The firm’s proposal to provide Columbia with planning and GIS projects would total $78,000.

Dunakey noted that one of the benefits of using Shockey Consulting was that the company had already provided a fiscal impact analysis model, which would in turn saves city staff time during the comprehensive plan process.

The last comprehensive plan, the 20/20 Master Plan, was adopted in 2005.  The city is seeking a new plan to “guide growth over the next 25 years,” according to the proposal request. 

The first task in the comprehensive plan will be “community engagement activities” in which the planners will seek input from Columbia residents about how they would like to see the city grow and develop. 

The project is expected to take about a year to complete, with initial work to begin in mid-September. 

Hill and Brimm also discussed the recent release of U.S. Census numbers. Columbia’s population was listed at 10,999, an 8.4 percent increase from the previous decennial census.

Brimm said he did not feel the new numbers were accurate in light of a special census conducted by the city in 2017 showing  population at that time was 10,868.

He and Dunakey reviewed recent development in the city and found that 83 permits for new homes were issued from September 2017 to September 2020. Brimm also noted that in that time, 12 apartments and condominium complexes were constructed and the city annexed five areas in 2018.

Hill reported a 2.5 average household capacity. Brimm pointed out that based on the average alone multiplied by the new building permits, the city should have grown by more than the 131 residents indicated by the 2020 Census.  

Brimm said he and Dunakey are looking into a “verification or dispute process” in which the city could engage with the U.S. Census Bureau.

“It just stands to reason that we should have significantly more residents in Columbia counted than what’s being indicated,” Brimm concluded.

Brimm explained to the council that the city could be negatively impacted financially by incorrect census numbers but that was optimistic that with the recent release of preliminary municipality data, the city could seek verification without needing to conduct a costly special census.

Brimm also updated the council on recent communication with the Prairie du Pont Levee & Drainage District regarding their concerns about Columbia annexation and development plans that would affect the district. 

At the Aug. 2 meeting, officials from the levee district expressed concern about stormwater drainage and the effect on its water pumping systems – especially considering the district spends nearly half of its annual budget to power the pumps.

In researching tax levies that fund the Prairie du Pont district, Brimm informed representatives of the district that the Village of Dupo may be able to do more to alleviate some of the burden to the budget and the pumping stations.

The levee district board informed city staff that Dupo did not appear to enforce any “stormwater retention or detention requirements,” which would help keep runoff water at manageable levels.

Brimm also notified the district that it is being impacted by developments in several tax increment finance districts in Dupo because they are only receiving tax money at the “pre-development  levels” of the property values.

Brimm stated that the district has “lost over $1 million through the TIF district and they are being directly impacted (by the TIF developments) without any additional  funding to offset that impact.”

Brimm also “reminded” the Prairie du Pont district that “capital projects undertaken by a taxing district as a result of TIF development are expenses that are eligible for reimbursement from the TIF district funds.”

Brimm said district representatives were “unaware” of the reimbursable projects, but that they “would look into it.”

In other business, the council voted to sell lease rights for a telecommunications tower known as “Tower 3” on Bremser Road to Landmark Infrastructure Holding Company for a 50-year period for a total of $815,314.

The company had already been leasing the tower, so the prorated lump sum amount the city would receive would be just over $800,000, according to Brimm.

“With the ever-changing nature of telecommunications, the usefulness of towers of this nature is unknown. As such, it is recommended the city proceed with the assignment of rights to maximize its return,” the staff report stated in support of the sale of the lease rights.

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