Columbus approves two new multi purpose zoning districts

Published 10:00 pm Tuesday, March 21, 2017

COLUMBUS -The Town of Columbus has added two new zoning districts to its zoning ordinance referred to as a mixed-used development and a traditional neighborhood development zone for future developments.

Columbus Town Council met March 16 and approved the new zoning districts.

“The purpose of adding these zones to the ordinance is so the planning board and town board have more flexibility with future development that might occur in town,” said Columbus Town Manager Tim Barth.

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Richard Flowe, a consultant with N Focus Planning and Design Inc. drafted the amendments to add the new zones to the town’s ordinance. Flowe met with the Columbus Planning Board twice prior to its recommendation to add the new zones as well as town council last week.

The mixed-use district is described as being established to provide opportunities for compatible and sustainable re-development where underutilized commercial properties already exist. The existing auto-oriented street, lot and building designs can create uncomfortable pedestrian environments; however, with careful site planning these areas will allow a greater number of residents to walk or bike to businesses and services with an interconnected network of streets and sidewalks, according to the town’s new ordinance.

“Dominant uses in this district are residential, retail and office,” states the ordinance. “The mixed-use district is expected to serve Columbus residents as well as persons who travel from the surrounding communities. The development pattern in this district acknowledges the role of the automobile, with parking and access provided to ensure safety for the monitoring public. Development standards in the mixed-use district ensure the creation of a pleasant auto-oriented environment while enabling a compatible transition to uses in adjacent districts. This district is available for rezoning only with the consent of the property owner(s).”

The traditional neighborhood development district is described as providing for the development of new neighborhoods and the revitalization or extension of existing neighborhoods.

The neighborhoods are structured upon a fine network of interconnecting pedestrian oriented streets and other public spaces, according to the ordinance.

“Traditional Neighborhood Developments (TNDs) provide a mixture of housing types and prices, prominently sited civic or community building(s), stores/offices/workplaces and churches to provide a balanced mix of activities,” states the ordinance. “A traditional neighborhood development has a recognizable center and clearly defined edges; optimum size is a quarter mile from center to edge. A TND is urban in form, is typically an extension of the existing developed area of the town, and has an overall residential density of up to 16 dwelling units per acre. TND districts should have a significant portion of land dedicated to open spaces. This district is available for rezoning only with the consent of the property owner(s).”

Columbus Town Manager Tim Barth explained that the amendments are adding the two new zoning categories to the town’s zoning ordinance.

“It’s like adding tools to a toolbox,” Barth said. “They are not necessarily going to be used right away unless a development comes and asked for the zoning categories we’re not going to be imposing them on a specific development.”

Barth said the town still has all the old categories of zoning.

“This (zone) is especially well done and well regulated,” Barth said. “We’re adding these as another option for the town when a development comes in if it seems to meet the criteria that would be appropriate.”

Barth said without the new zones, if a development comes in that wants these multi-use options, the town would have to zone parts of the development differently in each piece.

“We need the flexibility to be able to zone that but still control the development and that’s what these requirements allow us to do,” said Barth.

Flowe said if a development came to Columbus that fits one of the new zones, it will all be a very public process. He said the town would hold a public hearing to rezone the property to one of the new zones and would also need a public hearing to approve a development agreement.

Council members also discussed some concerns about the town’s zoning ordinance in general and said they want to see it more specific and to ensure there are exclusions for businesses the town does not want.

Barth said some businesses can’t be left out of a town but there are parameters where the town can restrict where certain types of businesses are located. Businesses such as gentlemen’s clubs and tattoo parlors were mentioned by council.

Councilman Richard Hall said the town did that years ago in the ordinance but questioned if Columbus needs to be more specific.

Council approved the two new zones unanimously and also agreed to hold a special meeting to make other amendments as needed to update the current zoning ordinance.

The special meeting will be announced and prior to approving other amendments to the town’s zoning ordinance a public hearing will have to be held.