Smart Decision 2014: Prop 2 divides Columbia organizations

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COLUMBIA - One of the top issues on the November ballot has Columbia city organizations clashing.

If approved, Proposition 2 would raise the city's development fees over three years. The non-residential construction fee would increase to $1.50 per square foot for low-impact builders and $2 per square foot for high-impact builders.

Columbia City Council member Michael Trapp voted to add the proposition on the November ballot. Trapp said the added fee would redistribute road construction funding to businesses that create city traffic.

"One of the ideas is that when we build a new subdivision or a new commercial center is that it puts more traffic on the roads and we have to find a way to pay for those roads," Trapp said.

Trapp said the city has not kept up with an increasing need for road improvement projects.

"Right now we have about $200 million in unfunded road projects," Trapp said. "This will allow us to address that more rapidly than if the tax doesn't pass."

Proposition 2 also adds a construction fee increase for residential builders to $1 per square foot. Currently the residential development fee is $.50 per square foot. The Columbia Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors voted earlier this month to oppose the proposal, arguing it would reduce the city's  housing affordibility. According to the Chamber, small businesses make up approximately 85 percent of the Chamber's membership.

Chamber President Matt McCormick said he fears the tax would drive new developers away from the city.

"It would trickle down into housing and other areas and also for businesses it trickles down to the end consumer," McCormick said. "Making entry-level homes especially a much higher rate, a much higher price, that maybe and possibly cause people to maybe purchase the home or decide to move somewhere else."

KOMU 8 News contacted five local developers, none responded or wanted to talk about Proposition 2.  However, McCormick said he has talked to developers who all disagree with the measure.

"Whenever you start looking at interested parties, it's not the best way to fix the problem," McCormick said. "We're all taxpayers at the end of the day, so this isn't a fair and equitable way to do that."

Columbia residents can vote on Proposition 2 on Nov. 4.