By JEFF DURBIN, Missourian staff writer
March 4, 1999

They stared down square footage, access, and frontage, and they were undaunted. They looked neighborhood compatibility guidelines in the eye and didn't blink.

The 15 people in the audience at the Metro 2020 community discussion talked about the big picture and small details of Columbia's next land-use plan, first with a city planner and then among themselves.

Jerry Wade, a member of the Columbia Planning and Zoning Commission, said he was pleased with the discussion.

"It gives people a chance to understand what is in the plan and gives them a chance to express concerns and express interest," he said.

Wade said he expected the commission to hold a public hearing on the plan by early April. The commission will also dedicate at least two work sessions to talking about Metro 2020.

The Metro 2020 plan will be Columbia's vision of how to deal with growth. Still in draft stage, the document is more flexible than the current land-use plan in the way it allows for mixed use. City planners estimate a metro area population of 132,000 in 2020.

Concern over this steady outward growth of Columbia drew most people to the discussion. John Kabrick, who lives in the Lake of the Woods development, said he's concerned about how Metro 2020 addressed the fringe of county land bordering the city but facing future annexation.

John Fleck from the Columbia Department of Planning and Development, on hand to field questions about the plan, said that was entirely up to elected officials. Metro 2020 takes county planning policies into consideration in areas beyond the current city limits.

"I don't think any cooperation is necessary to make the plan successful," Fleck said.

The discussion at Blue Ridge Elementary School was the first of four organized by the Metro 2020 Community Discussion Planning Group, a coalition of various organizations and people. The planning group will make sure audience participation does not end up in a cul-de-sac by forwarding the input to the planning department and Columbia Planning and Zoning Commission

Krista Bailey said she got involved in the planning group through her neighborhood association. She said she was not disappointed by the sparse attendance.

"The purpose is not only to educate, but also to bring up ideas so this really is a public document," Bailey said.