City Council Regular Meeting - Mar 04, 2024

"Columbia City Council Champions Beginner-Friendly Disc Golf Course, Addresses Traffic and Trash Collection Concerns"

The Columbia City Council meeting on March 4, 2024, began with the Pledge of Allegiance, followed by a roll call where all council members were present. The meeting proceeded with multiple opportunities for public comment, including during public hearings, old and new business, and a final general comment period. The council approved the minutes from the February 19, 2024, meeting without changes.

A significant portion of the meeting was dedicated to discussing the proposed construction of a nine-hole disc golf course at Fairview Park. The Parks and Recreation Director, Gabe Huffington, presented the project, highlighting its design for beginners and youth players. The course aims to introduce more individuals to disc golf, utilizing $15,000 from a previous capital improvement project for implementation. The plan received endorsements from the Parks North Commission and the community, with a public input meeting scheduled. Despite some concerns about wildlife impact and adjacency to the Bonnevue Sanctuary, staff assured that the course's design would not impede animal traffic and would enhance opportunities for wildlife. The council voiced support for the project, emphasizing its potential benefits to the neighborhood and the disc golf community.

Another topic of discussion was the proposed annexation of property on the west side of Olivet Road for a residential subdivision. Concerns were raised about traffic impact, especially near the busy school zone of Russell Boulevard Elementary. However, the developer agreed to modify the plan to eliminate a through road, addressing some traffic concerns. The council also discussed the importance of infill development and maintaining the character of the neighborhood.

The introduction of roll carts for trash collection in Columbia began, with staff reporting a successful first day despite some operational challenges. The council discussed the roll cart program's implementation, including placement guidelines and efforts to educate residents on proper use.

The meeting also covered various consent agenda items, including ordinances and resolutions for first reading. The council addressed public comments on topics such as the climate action adaptation plan, concerns about a rezoning project, and suggestions for improving the room at the inn facility.

The meeting concluded with council and staff comments, reiterating the city's commitment to addressing community concerns and advancing projects that benefit Columbia residents.

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City Council Pre-Council Meeting Mar 04, 2024

"Cracking Down on Liquor Licenses: City Council Tackles Compliance and Community Concerns"

During the city council meeting, Todd Guest, the business services manager in the finance department, provided a comprehensive overview of the current licensing provisions for liquor licenses, including the applicant qualifications, premises requirements, and the investigation process. He highlighted the general requirement for applicants to be of good moral character, which involves considering criminal history as well as reputation and integrity. Guest also detailed the four-step investigation process for liquor license applications, which includes verifying application materials, conducting criminal records checks, seeking endorsements from various city departments, and considering objections from qualified neighbors.

Guest further explained the standards of operation for licensed facilities, emphasizing the need to prevent and suppress violent, disorderly, and unlawful activity, as well as the importance of nuisance avoidance and alcohol regulations compliance. He outlined the potential adverse outcomes for violations, including the denial or revocation of licenses, and the due process involved in appeals.

The council discussed the challenges of administering these provisions, noting the lack of compliance personnel in the business license division and the reliance on notices of violations from other city departments. Guest proposed recommendations to improve the process, such as implementing a formal process for accepting and tracking violation notices and better marketing the right of qualified neighbors to object to a license issue.

Council members expressed interest in understanding the existing powers and authorities the city has to address issues related to unruly gatherings and non-contributing businesses. They discussed the importance of having a consistent process across departments and utilizing existing software for tracking violations. The council agreed on the need for further discussions and updates on the implementation of the recommendations.

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City Council Budget Work Session - Feb 26, 2024

"City Council Sets Sights on Affordable Housing and Public Safety in Upcoming Budget Talks, Eyes New Revenue from Taxes"

During the work session, the council and staff discussed priorities for the upcoming fiscal year's budget, focusing on areas such as affordable housing, public safety, infrastructure, employees, economic development, cultural affairs, parks, and social services. Council members expressed interest in ensuring the city's growth is supported with adequate infrastructure and that new initiatives like the Office of Violence Prevention are effectively implemented. There were also discussions about the need for additional staffing in certain departments to meet goals, especially in housing and planning. The impact of new revenue sources, such as the use tax and marijuana tax, was acknowledged, with an understanding that their full effect is still being assessed. Concerns were raised about maintaining competitive employee benefits and ensuring pension funds are adequately supported. The council also emphasized the importance of not letting studies sit on shelves but instead using them to guide actionable changes. The session included requests for specific data on employee compensation, the cost of additional city holidays, funding for affordable housing, increases in social services, and details on transportation sales tax and transit expenses. The next steps in the budget process include work sessions on revenues and the Capital Improvement Plan (CIP), separate from discussions about a potential ballot initiative for a 10-year CIP.

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Planning and Zoning Commission - Regular Meeting - Feb 22, 2024

"Columbia to Dive into New Swim Facility: Commission Approves Unique Plan Amid Parking and Design Debates"

During the Planning and Zoning Commission meeting on March 7, 2024, several key topics were discussed, including a request by H Design Group on behalf of Grindstone Acres LLC et al. and Capital Land Investments and DiVentures of Columbia for approval of a PD plan and design exceptions for lot 101 of the Copperstone Corner Plat No. 1 to be known as PD Plan DiVentures of Columbia. This 1.57-acre site is located approximately 530 feet southeast of the South of Scott Boulevard and West Vaughter School Road intersection. The plan proposes an 8,350-square-foot swim and dive instruction facility, which is one of only two such facilities in Columbia. The building is planned to occupy about 12% of its allowable coverage, with a total site coverage of about 66%, leaving 34% as green space. Two design exceptions were requested: one to waive an entry door facing the public right-of-way (Vaughter School Road) and another to exceed the 200% parking maximum, almost reaching 300%. The commission discussed the necessity of the additional parking, considering the business model of DiVentures, which includes swim and dive instruction for children and adults, retail, and travel components. The discussion also touched on stormwater management, the pedestrian and bicycle access to the site, and the fenestration along Vaughter School Road. The commission ultimately voted to approve the PD plan with the associated design exceptions, with a condition related to the amount of fenestration being substantially the same or greater than that shown in the provided drawings.

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City Council Regular Meeting - Feb 19, 2024

"Columbia Declares Itself an LGBTQ Sanctuary City: A Bold Move for Inclusivity and Equality"

The Columbia City Council meeting on February 19, 2024, discussed several important issues, including the Safe Haven Ordinance for the LGBTQ community. After hearing from numerous community members, both in support and opposition, the council voted to pass the ordinance, making Columbia a sanctuary city for LGBTQ individuals. This ordinance aims to protect LGBTQ residents from discriminatory state legislation and affirm the city's commitment to inclusivity and equality. The council also addressed other matters, such as a development agreement with TKG St. Peter's Shopping Center, LLC, and the sale of city-owned property to L Holdings LLC for Veterans United's use. Additionally, the Disabilities Commission submitted requests for the fiscal year 2025 budget, focusing on sidewalk maintenance, ADA projects, and support for employee accommodations and first responder training on disability awareness. The council also introduced and approved various bills and resolutions on the consent agenda. Concerns were raised about the new utility payment system and the handling of a reporter during the meeting. The council emphasized its dedication to listening to community feedback and ensuring the safety and well-being of all Columbia residents.

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Columbia Fire Department Basic Recruit School 23-3 Graduation - Feb 16, 2024

"Columbia's Bravest: New Firefighters Graduate with Honors and High Hopes for the Future"

The Columbia Fire Department held a ceremony to honor the newest graduates from Basic Recruit School 2023-3. The event began with the presentation of colors by the Columbia Fire Department Honor Guard, followed by the Pledge of Allegiance. Retired Battalion Chief James Weaver led the invocation, thanking God for the recruits' hard work, dedication, and the skills they learned to meet their certification requirements.

Fire Chief Cleton Farr, Jr. welcomed attendees and recognized special guests including Columbia Mayor Pro Tem Nick Foster and City Councilwoman Dr. Betsy Peters. Mayor Pro Tem Foster shared a personal anecdote to highlight the importance of the fire department's work and congratulated the four graduates on their achievement and future contributions to the community.

Chief Farr detailed the rigorous 18-week training program the recruits underwent, including over 700 combined hours of classroom and hands-on instruction, leading to multiple State of Missouri certifications and a Columbia Fire Department certificate of graduation. He thanked the training division staff and executive chief officers for their contributions to the recruits' success.

The ceremony proceeded with the presentation of the Academic Achievement Award to Zachary Cram and the Distinguished Graduate Award to Spencer Budd, recognizing their outstanding performance during training. A slideshow provided insight into the recruits' training experiences, followed by the administration of the oath of office, officially transitioning them from recruits to probationary firefighters.

Chief Farr emphasized the importance of honor, dedication, and commitment in the profession and acknowledged the families of the recruits for their support. The ceremony concluded with a benediction by Chief Weaver, invoking protection and peace for the firefighters as they embark on their careers.

Refreshments were provided after the ceremony, marking a celebratory end to the evening.

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Citizens Police Review Board - Feb 14, 2024

"New Leadership and Transparency Initiatives at Citizens Police Review Board Meeting Amid Public Concerns"

During the Citizens Police Review Board meeting, the agenda and minutes from the previous meeting were approved without objection. The board moved on to elect officers, with Doug Hunt being elected as chair and Stephen Jefferby as vice chair, both by acclamation.

The meeting also addressed the issue of planning for Earth Day participation, but it was noted that in past years the board's presence at Earth Day events in Peace Park had not been very effective due to low visitor engagement. It was decided to discuss the board's outreach efforts and participation in Earth Day at the next meeting.

A significant portion of the meeting was dedicated to public comments. One individual detailed their ongoing issues with the Columbia Police Department (CPD), alleging uncooperative responses and a lack of investigation into crimes reported by them. They requested that the Missouri Highway Patrol be allowed to investigate due to a perceived conflict of interest within the CPD.

Another public comment recommended that the board should participate in an upcoming Citizen Summit to increase public awareness of their work. Additionally, a concern was raised about the CPD's handling of civil and domestic calls, citing personal experiences of unprofessional behavior by officers.

Staff updates included plans to reinstate a dashboard for the board to monitor complaints in real time, enhancing transparency. There was also mention of sending officers for training with the Police Executive Research Forum (PERF) to improve de-escalation techniques and use of force policies.

The meeting concluded with a unanimous vote to go into a closed session to discuss records protected from disclosure by law.

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Planning and Zoning Commission - Regular Meeting - Feb 08, 2024

"Major Rezoning Wins: Columbia's Plan for Diverse Housing and Mixed-Use Developments Moves Forward"

During the Planning and Zoning Commission meeting on February 8, 2024, several cases were discussed:

  1. Case Number 682024: Crockett Engineering, on behalf of 2000 Allen Lane LLC, requested approval to rezone 15.17 acres to RMF multifamily residential and 3.42 acres to MC mixed-use corridor. The site, currently zoned R11 family dwelling and MN mixed-use neighborhood, aims for a diverse use development. Staff recommended approval, noting the proposed zoning aligns with the Columbia Imagine Comprehensive Plan, emphasizing infill development and diversity in housing options. The commission approved the rezoning unanimously.

  2. Case Number 67-2024: Related to the same property as Case Number 682024, this case involved a request for approval of a five-lot preliminary plat to be known as Vandever Commercial. This development plan includes extending Allen Lane and establishing a secondary ingress/egress for the development to the north. A traffic study is anticipated to address potential impacts. The commission approved the preliminary plat subject to minor technical corrections.

  3. Case Number 54-2024: This case involved a request by a civil group on behalf of Marilyn E. Brown for approval to rezone 37.59 acres to R1 one-family dwelling and 30 acres to R2 two-family dwelling upon annexation. The commission had a lengthy discussion, including a formal protest petition against the R2 zoning from neighboring residents. Ultimately, the commission voted to approve the R1 zoning but defeated the R2 zoning, reflecting concerns about increased density and infrastructure.

  4. Case Number 702024: McClure Engineering Company, on behalf of Jesus House Columbia, requested approval to rezone .77 acres from PD Plan Development District to MOF Mixed Use Office District. The rezoning aims to facilitate the planned expansion of their existing religious institution building. The commission approved the rezoning, noting that religious institution land use is permitted in all zoning districts and that MOF uses would likely require traffic impact studies for future development.

Throughout the meeting, the commission carefully considered public opinions, neighborhood character, and compliance with the Columbia Imagine Comprehensive Plan. The decisions made reflected a balance between property owners' rights, community concerns, and the city's growth and development goals.

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City Council Regular Meeting - Feb 05, 2024

"City Council Moves Forward with Sewer Improvement Project, Debates Short-Term Rental Regulations Amidst Calls for Equity and Transparency"

The February 5th, 2024 regular city council meeting was called to order, and after the pledge of allegiance, roll call confirmed the presence of council members Ms. Buffalo, Mr. Knopf, Ms. Proffitt, Mr. Lovelady, Mr. Foster, Mr. Waterman, and Ms. Peters. Mayor Sheila announced the opportunities for public comment and the rules of decorum for the meeting.

The council approved the minutes from the January 16, 2024, regular meeting and adjusted the agenda to allow Councilmember Betsy Peters to abstain from voting on item B224 due to a potential conflict of interest involving her ownership of an LLC with a short-term rental.

The council discussed the proposed construction of the Richmond Avenue private common collector elimination sanitary sewer improvement project. The project aims to provide public sewer service to three properties currently served by a private common collector sewer. The council approved to proceed with the final design of the project, subject to obtaining necessary easement donations.

Carrie Gartner, Director of the Loop CID, provided an update on the Como Cooks Kitchen and its use of workforce development funding. The kitchen serves as an affordable shared space for small businesses and food manufacturers, offering various cuisines and contributing to the diversity of the business loop.

Susan Mays expressed concerns about the recall process for a first ward council person and suggested that the council have public discussions and questions to improve policy and trust among residents.

Suthu Forte represented the organization That's Our Wild Nature and discussed the importance of managing natural areas and the impact of their work on the environment and the community.

Tracy Wilson-Kleekamp, representing Race Matters Friends, spoke about the need for equity and systemic justice in all city policies and decisions. She emphasized the importance of an equity assessment before programming and the need for clear communication with residents.

Andrew Hutchinson, representing Local 955, discussed wage compression and the impact on city employees. He requested that the council consider increasing the maximum number of nights for unhosted short-term rentals to 210 days to reflect the actual usage by operators.

Susan Renee Carter expressed her support for the Columbia Board of Realtors' proposed regulations for short-term rentals and urged the council to consider the limitations and impact on neighborhoods and affordable housing.

The council then moved on to public hearings and other agenda items, including approval of previous minutes, adjustment of the agenda, and scheduled public comments. The meeting addressed various concerns and decisions related to city governance, public services, and community development.

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