Columbia comprehensive plan delay

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A shortage of city staff has delayed the planned completion date for Columbia’s ongoing comprehensive plan process. 

With the retirement of Sue Spargo as Columbia Assistant to the City Administrator and a recent departure of a community development staff member responsible for code enforcement, the Columbia City Council voted to approve an amendment to the contract with Shockey Consulting Services.

The amendment expands Shockey’s role in the development of the comprehensive plan. 

Columbia Director of Community Development Scott Dunakey said the original plan was to have city staff heavily involved in the plan process, but Spargo leaving in February coupled with the most recent staff-level departure  has created a delay in plan creation and increased involvement by Shockey.

The consulting company is now in the “lead role for plan content,” apart from transportation and utility aspects, Dunakey said.

Originally, Shockey was only going to be head of the parks and recreation component of the comprehensive plan. 

With staff positions remaining unfilled, Dunakey said the city “can’t accomplish the original design” of the project in which Shockey was less involved.  

Due to the setback, the comprehensive plan process is now expected to be completed in March 2023 rather than this October.

The amendment passed Monday night adds $40,000 to Shockey’s consulting fees. The original contract for plan development was just under $80,000.

Columbia City Administrator Doug Brimm said the city has available funding for the extra consulting cost and the amendment would have “zero impact” on the current fiscal year budget.

Brimm also noted the city has selected finalists for a community relations coordinator position. The position would be responsible for the aspects of Spargo’s former position which dealt within the city’s community development department such as communication, social media, special events and community engagement among other responsibilities.

Dunakey said the community can expect more opportunities for input on the plan this summer with an emphasis on more specific issues such as the direction residents would like the city to go regarding land use, housing and quality of life topics.

For updates on input opportunities or more information on the planning process, visit columbiaconversations.com.

In other action, the council voted as part of its consent agenda to accept a Columbia Plan Commission report which authorizes a public hearing for possible annexation of a property at 1439 Centerville Road.

The property, which is currently in unincorporated Monroe County, is owned by Greg and Melinda Meyer. 

The Meyers would like the city “to put the property under the jurisdiction of Columbia municipal codes and eligible for city water service while they wait for the property to become contiguous to city limits.”

The annexation is being requested as the Meyers are in the process of reconstructing Sugar Spring Ranch wedding venue, which was destroyed by fire last year at 1385 Centerville Road. 

The public hearing will be held Monday, July 11, beginning at 6:30 p.m. in the council chambers at Columbia City Hall.

The city will also hold a public informational meeting this Thursday, June 23, from 5-6 p.m. at City Hall to gain input for the proposed GM&O Connector Trail project. The connector would continue the existing trail from Cherry Street to Centerville Avenue along the former path of the GM&O railroad line.

For more information about the meeting, click here

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