Columbia’s dead end dilemma 

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As the City of Columbia continues to attract new people to the area, residents in at least one of the older parts of the city are facing a problem with development of subdivided lots which have been empty for about 80 years.

Columbia City Administrator Doug Brimm briefed council on an “in-fill” development situation involving an under-used, subdivided property and its public right-of-way near the end of Kosciusco Street, a dead end roadway off North Main Street.

The residents at the terminus of Kosciusco Street had been using and maintaining an unimproved section of the road as a de-facto driveway until construction recently began on two lots adjacent to that part of the street.

The problem facing the city is two-fold. First, the homeowners alerted the city that construction on the new homes is creating “ingress/egress” difficulty while coming or going from their house, Brimm said.

The second issue is establishing responsibility for the upgrade and maintenance of a “subpar” roadway which has not been maintained by the city for decades. Brimm asked the council for guidance for how to proceed with needed improvements to the street.

He noted both permits on the new houses were submitted “in conjunction with city code” and there were “no grounds to deny the applicant” despite the unresolved roadway issue.  

Columbia Director of Community Development explained the subdivided property exists on land platted in 1942 at the latest. 

He continued by saying “access is the concern” of current and future residents, but the city does not have a legal mechanism for assigning cost of bringing the roadway up to current city standards.

Columbia City Engineer Chris Smith also said it was unclear how the city could “interject codes” not in existence during the 1940s when the original parcels were approved.

Brimm pointed out the burden of maintaining and improvement of “infrastructure adjacent” to properties in development could be a future issue in other older parts of the city as well as being a current concern with newer subdivision projects in the past few years.

Dunakey suggested the “site plan review” – currently a city building code ordinance – be included as the last step in the development process and be included as part of city zoning code.

As part of zoning language, Dunakey said it would be subject to oversight by the Columbia Plan Commission and create other avenues to eliminate a situation similar to the one at Kosciusco Street.

Brimm, Dunakey and Smith will create proposals to bring before the council at a future meeting.

One alderman asked if  there should be a temporary moratorium placed on development in cases such as the one described until a remedy is found.

Columbia City Attorney Terry Bruckert advised against a moratorium, saying it would set a “bad precedent” and he is “confident in a solution” being realized in the coming weeks.

At the beginning of Monday’s meeting, the city recognized the Gedern Gesamtschule student exchange group. The students will be returning to Germany later this week after a three-week stay as part of an exchange with the Sister Cities of Columbia organization.

One German student, Emma Kehm, celebrated her 15th birthday in part by officially calling Monday’s city council meeting to order.  

Pictured, students from Germany receive certificates of appreciation from the City of Columbia during Monday’s city council meeting. With the students, at left, is German delegation teacher Britta Schafer-Clarke. At right, from left, is delegation teacher Andreas Heuser with his wife Christine and Columbia Mayor Bob Hill. 
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