Community Discussion Held to Address Downtown Development Concerns

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COLUMBIA - An open discussion on downtown development was held at Stephen's Lake Park Sunday.

The public was invited to join in a conversation about the planning, process and the results of increased development in downtown Columbia. The discussion was led by local activist Tracy Greever-Rice and Columbia Fourth Ward Councilperson Ian Thomas.

"Obviously downtown development is a topic of great interest to the whole community right now, so I thought it was a good opportunity to meet with some people, hear what they're thinking, tell them what I'm thinking and have a good discussion about it," Thomas said. 

Thomas said he planned to discuss the increase in downtown housing and student residents and the impact of downtown growth on Columbia's infrastrucre, like sewer systems. Thomas says there are already leaky sewer pipes running downtown, which causes sewage to back up into some homes and manholes to overflow when there's heavy rain.

"As we add residents to the same sewer base that is already performing poorly, we're going to exacerbate the problem," Thomas said.

Thomas said the city has a plan to improve the sewer system, but it's expensive, time comsuming and not a guaranteed fix.

"People feel we should not be adding new development until we have addressed the sewer issues that people who have lived in the city for decades have expressed," Thomas said. 

Thomas said he hopes the event will help clear up community confusion about downtown development.

"I think there is quite a lot of misunderstanding out in the community about certain issues, specifically about the Opus development and the two contracts the city has drawn up with Opus," Thomas said. "I originally thought people were concerned about the process, but that's not the only thing they're concerned about. I'm just hoping to learn from the experience, and maybe share some information that other people didn't know."

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