City council to vote on proposed freeze to downtown student housing developments

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COLUMBIA – The Columbia City Council is expected to vote tonight on a proposal that would temporarily freeze the processing of new building and demolition permits downtown. 

Mayor Brian Treece created the proposal and it is primarily aimed at pausing student housing and other multi-family projects taking place in the city center until December 1, 2016.

The proposal would place a boundary around the city with about a mile radius defined by Stadium Drive to the south, Elm Street to the north, Providence Road to the west, and Hitt Street to the east.

Third Ward Councilman Karl Skala said this proposal has been long in the making and he isn’t surprised to see it surfacing now.

“There is starting to be that pressure to reevaluate just exactly what is going on downtown and what we want to see that downtown look like in the future,” Skala said. “A lot of folks are suggesting to me that there needs to be some balance between student housing needs and profession needs from the rest of the downtown business community.

Skala said he doesn’t believe the recent drop in enrollment at MU is the direct cause for this proposal.

He said other issues, such as new zoning proposals and feedback from the business community, have combined to bring this proposal to the forefront of the conversation.

Fourth Ward Councilman Ian Thomas said he could understand how there are some potential arguments against this proposal.

“Opposition to preventing people doing what they want to do with their private property is easy to find. There are plenty of people that feel very strongly that if somebody owns a piece of property, they ought to be able to demolish it and build something else there if they wish,” Thomas said.

Thomas added that if there is a pause in downtown developments, it would give the city council the ability to deal with other pertinent issues on their agenda.