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Boone County Master Planning

A bricklayer's gloved hand places a red-hued brick in place with mortar.

Leaders begin the process of updating Boone County’s growth and development direction.

In April, Boone County started an almost two-year process of updating its master plan, which hasn’t been done since 1996. A master plan is a guide to assist with zoning requests, development regulations, and future infrastructure needs over the next 10 to 20 years in unincorporated segments of the county.

The county is way overdue for a master plan update, as Boone County has been one of the fastest-growing areas in Missouri since the last plan was created almost 28 years ago.

The county has hired several urban planning and development consultants to help the Boone County Planning & Zoning Commission (P&Z) draft a new master plan. Before a first draft is released for the public to view, the consultants will assess the county’s economy, demographics, natural resources, housing and development needs, transportation needs, recreation opportunities, and current services.

The consultants will also be working with an advisory committee of various city officials, business owners, and county residents to learn about the county’s needs. A technical committee consisting of county departments, fire districts, utility services, and state agencies will also be working with the consultants to consider the feasibility of ideas brought up during the planning process.

There is also an opportunity for community engagement. The consultants will meet with various stakeholder groups and collect data through a county-wide survey later this summer. In addition, there will be three open houses along the way, both online and in-person, where citizens can comment on drafts of the plan as it is periodically released over the next year and a half.  

Even though the master plan addresses unincorporated areas of Boone County, residents living in municipalities such as Columbia, Ashland, and Centralia should be just as interested in the planning update. The new plan could have implications regarding future annexations, development, road maintenance and construction, fire protection, and utility needs.  

Community feedback will be crucial to developing a more effective plan. However, people providing feedback must work together and have realistic visions of how Boone County should grow and develop to meet the needs of a continually evolving area. Boone County will continue to grow, and the goal of the master plan isn’t to stop growth but to have an idea of how to manage growth as new development is proposed. In addition, there needs to be a balanced vision between the needs of commercial and residential areas so that residential areas have the services they need close by.

Although the Boone County Planning & Zoning Commission and the Boone County Commission will adopt the final plan, it’s not a plan for future growth that is set in stone. Development during the life of the new master plan will shift how the plan is interpreted in the future. In addition, aspects of the plan will need to be balanced with a property owner’s rights when development proposals reach county P&Z and the commission for approval.  

Having a new master plan to refer to should help the county manage anticipated growth. However, it will only work if residents can hear each other’s points of view and have reasonable expectations of what a new plan needs to accomplish.


Brian Toohey

Brian Toohey is the chief executive officer for the Columbia Board of REALTORS.

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