March/April 2021 Newsletter
Updated: May 28, 2021
A big reason some parts of our city seem to lag behind, in spite of their wonderful location- lies just beneath the surface.
This is a longer, heavier blog post than I normally write, but it's an important subject for part of our district and city.
Why are the best locations in our city not always the nicest places? In the last few years, I have learned that every American city has faced challenges in redeveloping areas that are "close to town" since World War 2. This newsletter is focused on one portion of District 8. If your home is on a block where there is no commercial or multifamily development on your block, this probably does not apply to you. If you are on a mixed use street, this is for you. A few mixed use streets in our district include parts of Senn, Center, Shull, Shuler, Lacy, Holland and Perry Street. Mixed use blocks were usually laid out before World War 2. They were convenient, desirable places when they were built. They were built with no restrictions, only "common sense." They can grow into wonderful communities that attract families.
As a real estate broker, I can tell you that many homebuyers desire housing with a convenient walk to non-residential uses within a "5 minute walkshed," like a cafe, place of work, or a day care. It's also a great environment for smaller sized "local" businesses to grow. So, why aren't all of our streets thriving? There are plenty of common answers-crime, slumlords, etc... but there's a big economic reason that many people do not know about.
Your standard zoning categories (Residential, Commercial, Industrial) were founded with good intentions, however, they came about a long time after cities like West Columbia were already built.
Standard zoning is always too "generic" and "one size fits all" to conform to the kind of environment (streets, lot sizes, building orientations, walkways) in a mixed use area. A simple, common sense proposal to build in a non conforming district is a lot harder and riskier than most people imagine.
While our city may be open-minded for growth and investment, we spend lots of public resources reacting to new proposals in mixed use areas. Our city staff is often unable to approve simple projects in mixed use areas without a 45 day wait, and board approval.
Because thousand of dollars have to be spent to make a nice development plan for a presentation where the board may say no, many investors do not bother and are not engaged with our city, this is especially true with smaller projects. This runs off good developers, which devalues property and creates an incentive structure where slumlords reign supreme. The answer is a zoning update. We need codes that look like our places. We need to reward good development and be more engaged with small scale developers. We need zoning that "unifies" development, is "prescriptive," facilitates orderly, well lit, parking areas and walkways. We should encourage nice buildings, lower government risk, and be open to new development, while respecting the old. It can be done! I'm working hard at it!
Please also note:
The City of West Columbia will hold its Fiscal Year 2021-2022 Budget Public Hearing on June 1, 2021 at 6:00p.m. with safety protocols in place at City Hall, 200 N. 12th Street.
The meeting will also be live streamed on YouTube at: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UClBoZv6wU78I-UFcIfD-_Sg
If special accommodations are needed to participate in public meetings, please contact the West Columbia City Clerk’s office at (803) 939-8608 or email@example.com at least five days prior to the scheduled meeting date.
David Benjamin Moye
Council Member, District #8, City of West Columbia