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UPDATE: Commission approves 'down zoning' in Benton-Stephens

Commission approves 'down zoning' in...

COLUMBIA, Mo. - UPDATE: The Columbia Planning and Zoning Commission approved rezoning requests from nearly three dozen homeowners in central Columbia.

The commission voted 9-0 for residents of the Benton-Stephens neighborhood to change their zoning from R-3 to R-1. The latter allows only single-family housing.

Peter Norgard, who petitioned the city for the down zoning, said he hopes Benton-Stephens serves as inspiration for other neighborhoods. He wanted to protect the character of the neighborhood, one of the city's oldest. He said it could also send a message to future city councils that consider rezoning for multiplexes or other large-scale developments.

"It really doesn't limit their ability to redevelop," Norgard told ABC 17 News after the vote. "It puts an additional roadblock in to make the city look at our situation here in Benton-Stephens and say, 'Maybe we shouldn't be going down this road.'"

The commission also approved CenterPointe Behavioral Health's 72-bed facility in north Columbia. The mental health hospital will sport 156 parking spaces, and offer inpatient and outpatient services.

ORIGINAL: The city's Planning and Zoning Commission will hear several cases Thursday night, including a massive "down zoning" request by residents near downtown.

ABC 17 News reported in November that dozens of property owners in the Benton-Stephens neighborhood,  who manage 35 different locations, asked the city to rezone their land to allow only single-family developments. The locations are currently zoned R-3, which allows multi-family homes like multiplexes. Many are asking that the area be changed to R-1. Only one owner of a duplex wants an R-2 designation, which allows such structures.

Peter Norgard, who started the petition, told ABC 17 News that residents wanted to preserve the "character" of the neighborhood. The nearby downtown area has gained several large apartment complexes in the last few years, and Norgard said many students have started renting the old homes in the Benton-Stephens neighborhood.

The rezoning could also provide some protection for homes in case someone wanted to redevelop properties. The city is still considering a unified development code, which contains specific protections for places zoned specifically for single-family homes.

The Planning and Zoning Commission will also take up a proposal from CenterPointe Behavioral Health to rezone land in north Columbia. The group wants to build a 72-bed mental health facility at the corner of Rangeline and International streets. CenterPointe CEO Buddy Turner told ABC 17 News in May that youth mental health services would be the "centerpiece" of what is offered at the new facility.

If the commission approves the proposals, they would go to the Columbia City Council for final approval.

(Editor's note, 1/5, 11:07 p.m.: This story, originally titled 'Commission to hear 'down zoning' requests, consider mental health hospital,' has been updated with the newest information.)

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