A handful of metropolis leaders have made it their mission to make Columbia extra “business-friendly” by eliminating limitations for builders and entrepreneurs.
However as the town tries to clear obstacles for brand spanking new enterprise, some residents and neighborhood leaders say unintended penalties are positive to observe.
Among the many proposed modifications are the elimination of off-street parking necessities for buildings 7,500 sq. toes or much less, and the elimination of landscaping necessities for redeveloped properties if assembly these necessities reduces present parking.
Neighborhood residents fear much less parking will flip their quiet residential streets into de-facto parking tons. Conservationists fear fewer landscaping necessities will enhance city flooding and worsen warmth islands.
The deeper query on the minds of many is the best way to transfer a metropolis ahead whereas nonetheless defending its present belongings.
For Sabrina Odom-Edwards, director of the North Columbia Enterprise Affiliation, eliminating the off-street parking necessities for small enterprise is a query of fairness.
Companies in 5 Factors, the Most important Road district and components of Devine Road are already exempt from the town’s requirement to supply off-street parking to patrons.
Odom-Edwards helps concepts that make it simpler to develop companies in North Columbia and on North Most important Road, the place improvement is lastly beginning to take off.
“It’s important that we create a pleasant mom-and-pop small enterprise ambiance,” she stated.
She added the main target wants to stay on small companies. The town’s proposal at present exempts any new and present enterprise of seven,500 sq. toes or much less from the requirement to supply off-street parking.
Odom-Edwards stated one other facet of the parking dialog is walkability and whether or not Columbia will ever transcend its car-centric tradition.
“It is a good initiative for transportation within the metropolis,” she stated, saying it could finally lead extra folks to make use of public transportation.
In lots of vibrant cities, folks perceive they may in all probability battle to discover a parking spot. As a substitute of residents driving their very own automobiles downtown, they carpool or take the bus, Odom-Edwards stated.
Altering Columbia’s tradition to be extra pedestrian-focused will include its personal set of rising pains, she added.
Matt Kennell, CEO of the Most important Road District’s Metropolis Heart Partnership, stated the dearth of off-street parking necessities has been a boon to Most important Road.
“It’s actually labored fairly nicely,” he stated. “I feel it encourages density and good improvement.”
It’s nonetheless doable to seek out parking close to Most important Road, he stated, including that the parking garages within the space nearly all the time have room.
He is aware of individuals are involved concerning the proposal to increase the exemption to different areas of the town. “However in actuality, parking will usually nonetheless must be offered, it simply received’t be required” by the town, Kennell stated.
These frightened concerning the lack of parking choices within the metropolis say they aren’t towards updating parking necessities for companies, however neighborhoods should be concerned within the dialog.
Columbia’s coalition of downtown neighborhoods is annoyed with how shortly metropolis leaders are attempting to get the modifications handed.
In June, Mayor Daniel Rickenmann and a few council members, together with Joe Taylor, held a press convention alongside metropolis enterprise leaders saying a slate of concepts to make life simpler and cheaper for enterprise homeowners.
Moreover the modifications to parking and landscaping guidelines, the proposals included eliminating water and sewer change-of-use charges for sure properties and the creation of a reimbursement program for grease assortment prices.
However residents say there has not been time to gather information or research potential unintended penalties of the modifications.
“This isn’t going to be phased-in, it’s simply going to occur at some point,” stated Elizabeth Marks, vice chairman of the downtown neighborhoods coalition.
Residents adjoining to downtown and different industrial corridors are involved that decreasing parking necessities will imply extra folks will park on their residential streets and that noise and rubbish will observe.
Whereas the center of Most important Road has an abundance of parking garages, Marks stated different neighborhoods aren’t so fortunate.
Neighborhoods adjoining to downtown are already seeing larger visitors as extra residences come on-line within the metropolis middle. Marks beforehand informed The State that development is finally optimistic for Columbia, as long as longtime residents are additionally thought of.
She worries that these modifications are only the start, and that finally sure metropolis leaders will try to remove all guardrails for improvement city-wide.
Taylor, who chairs Columbia’s financial and neighborhood improvement committee, stated the entire proposed modifications are about rising Columbia, and aren’t supposed to affect neighborhoods.
“We’re a metropolis of parking tons,” Taylor stated, including he feels for residents however “the most effective factor we are able to do for these people is have a vibrant downtown.”
Among the many proposed “business-friendly initiatives” is the elimination of landscaping necessities for companies which can be renovating buildings if these landscaping necessities would imply the lack of even a single present parking house.
Enterprise leaders together with Odom-Edwards and Kennell have heard horror tales from enterprise homeowners who’ve spent 1000’s to adjust to landscaping laws. They agree there ought to be some give and take between neighborhood pursuits and what’s good for entrepreneurs.
Each agree eliminating the necessities altogether would result in a warmer, much less engaging metropolis.
Others against the change as-written embody the Congaree Riverkeeper Invoice Stangler. His concern is that decreasing bushes and different vegetation might worsen city flooding and enhance warmth islands in Columbia.
Columbia is already fighting managing storm water runoff, city warmth and a dwindling tree cover, stated Stangler. When a property will get redeveloped, there’s a possibility to enhance it — by including vegetation and assembly “considerate” improvement tips meant to deal with points like warmth islands and flash floods.
Stangler referenced the a number of flash floods Columbia has confronted simply this 12 months.
Even a small change can have main unintended penalties, Stangler stated, including that if the change results in worse flooding, it should additionally imply worse water high quality within the Congaree, Saluda and Broad rivers.
Taylor dismissed the issues.
“I don’t suppose the quantity of what we’re speaking about right here is relative to any concern that exists,” he stated. “If you would like buildings renovated, if you’d like property improved, you make it simpler for folks to do it, no more troublesome and no more costly.”
He stated the modifications additionally don’t stop enterprise homeowners from including their very own landscaping, but it surely eliminates strict necessities set by the town.
Taylor stated the proposed modifications are very important to make it simpler for companies and builders to deliver new initiatives to Columbia. Ultimately, he wish to see much more pink tape eradicated, together with design tips enforced by the town’s Design/Growth Assessment Committee, or the DDRC.
“I wish to see the design tips faraway from our industrial areas and let the zoning do its job,” Taylor stated.
No formal efforts have but been launched to remove these tips.
Columbia Metropolis Council will contemplate the landscaping modifications throughout an everyday assembly Tuesday. The parking modifications are anticipated to be heard by the council in September.
Neighborhood teams are hoping the town council will defer each objects to permit for additional dialogue and analysis.
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