COLUMBIA - Just weeks after the Columbia City Council voted down the Tax Increment Financing (TIF) district idea that would pay for electric and sewer infrastructure, the council held a special meeting Wednesday to introduce the idea of three new student apartment projects near the University of Missouri campus.
Columbia Properties II, LLC, Opus Development Company, LLC and ACC OP Development, LLC want to build student housing that would total around 1,300 beds near campus. City leaders said the companies are willing to foot the bill for infrastructure.
"These three housing proposals require a substantial increase in infrastructure that we currently don't have," said Columbia Mayor Bob McDavid. "So the proponents of this have come together and have offered to offer a substantial increase in what we normally ask of builders. They're going to help fund this."
The development agreement with Columbia Properties II, LLC includes property on the south side of Conley Avenue, between Fourth Street and Fifth Street. The agreement with Opus Development Company, LLC concerns property on the north side of Locust Street between Seventh and Eighth Street. The agreement with ACC OP Development, LLC includes property on both the northeast corner of Providence Road and Turner Avenue and also the northwest corner of Turner Avenue and Fifth Street.
The first project to begin would be on the south side of Conley Avenue and the goal is to open that complex in the fall of 2015. McDavid said the developers aren't all in the same place with regard to progress. He said the Turner Avenue project right now is in the process of getting zoning approval.
The city is holding public comment sessions, as required, at two separate times. The first is Monday, March 17 and the second will be Wednesday, March 19. Some involved are concerned that city staff scheduled the two meetings with public comment for the same week and that the process is moving too quickly.
"I'm somewhat concerned and I've heard a lot from my constituents who are now really starting to get engaged what the nature of this compression into one week was," said 3rd Ward Councilman Karl Skala. "I want to know how this came about and why it's absolutely necessary."
McDavid said the contractors have an April 1 deadline for financing reasons and if the council doesn't help them meet that, the contractors will take their business elsewhere. While Skala said he understands that, he thinks some of the bank agreements creating the deadline could be negotiated.
Columbia resident Tracy Greever-Rice isn't happy with the quick time frame of the meetings either.
"The city staff has taken the route of using a very arcane, rarely used governmental mechanism to really, really compress the time period that the process takes place so that there's a great deal of limitation on public input into it and that's always a problem" Greever-Rice said.
McDavid said he doesn't see this as a quick process because the contractors have been in discussion with the city for months now.