City Council repeals Opus development plan

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COLUMBIA -The Columbia City Council repealed the controversial Opus development plan to build a six-story apartment complex downtown early Tuesday morning.

The council read the measure at 1:20 a.m., along with a measure that would place the Opus development on a special ballot November 4.

City Manager Mike Matthes recommended the council repeal the measure outright to avoid a costly ballot vote. Roughly a dozen citizens stayed through the meeting for this vote, but there were no public comments made.

Councilman Karl Skala said putting the development to a vote is the best alternative. He said opposition to the development may not reflect the entire community's opinion.

Councilwoman Barbara Hoppe said if the ordinance is repealed, the next step is to come back with a building development plan the community will support.

City Manager Mike Matthes said in the time since the original plan was repealed based on electric and sewer needs, the council has passed plans to improve the utility access to the area.

The council also allowed for public comment on the budget for Fiscal Year 2015. Many residents raised concerns about increased utility rates during the discussion.

The budget would increase electric operating rates by two percent and sewer operating rates by six percent. Matthes said the average monthly consumer impact would be a $4.26 increase in operating costs. Residents said these increases would disproportionally affect low-income households.

The council also read an ordinance to increase the price of parking permits for surface lots by five dollars, as well as increase parking ticket fees. Currently, parking meter tickets cost five dollars if paid within 15 days of the violation and 15 dollars if paid more than 15 days after the violation. Next year's budget would raise the ticket fee to 15 dollars if paid within 15 days of the violation and 30 dollars if paid more than 15 days after the violation.

The city council will hold two more public hearings regarding the budget during the regularly scheduled meetings. The council will vote on the budget September 15.