City Council Approves Downtown Development Projects

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COLUMBIA - During a special meeting Wednesday, the Columbia City Council voted to approve two student housing development proposals.  

The meeting was a continuation of discussions from Monday's city council meeting, during which residents voiced their concerns about the council's swift speed in pushing the three proposals.

The council and community members spent roughly an hour Wednesday discussing the merits of the first proposal, a development agreement with Columbia Properties II, LLC. The proposal includes plans to build a student housing complex that would house up to 351 students on the south side of Conley Avenue, between Fourth Street and Fifth Street.

After the council opened up the discussion to the public, one community member voiced her concerns with the council's communication with the community, saying anger was "rampant" in the community.

Another community member said he understood the logistics of the development proposal, but again cited concerns about communication, saying it seemed "illogical" that the council was on a retreat throughout Wednesday morning and could not be reached.

Michael Trapp, among other council members, acknowledged the communication issues.

"My apologies to the public who felt ill-used by the process," Trapp said. "But we can't kill the project or delay it."

During Monday night's meeting, Mayor Bob McDavid said the contractors have an April 1 deadline for financing reasons. Trapp acknowledged the deadline and also pointed out the need for the housing to be completed by August 2015 to accommodate the students that would move in.

After each council member shared his and her thoughts on the Columbia Properties proposal, the council unanimously voted to approve the development project.

The council then moved onto the next item on the agenda, a development agreement with Opus Development Company, LLC. that concerns a 256-bed apartment complex on the north side of Locust Street between Seventh and Eighth Street. 

While the council unanimously supported Columbia Properties II's proposal, the council split down the middle for Opus.

"Opus has conformed to all of Columbia's rules, regulations and demands," McDavid said.

Council member Ian Thomas said he did not think Columbia had the infrastructure in place for Opus, which aims to open a complex in Fall 2015. Thomas proposed tabling the issue for six months, a move that McDavid called "disingenuous."

The council voted down the motion, 4-3, and ultimately approved the Opus plan, 4-3.

The council then voted to table the ACC OP Development, LLC, agreement. ACC's development plan concerns property located on the northeast corner of Providence Road and Turner Avenue, and on the northwest corner of Turner Avenue and Fifth Street.