Columbia City Council freezes student housing development

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COLUMBIA - City council members approved Mayor Brian Treece's proposed student housing development freeze in downtown Columbia by a 5-2 vote Monday night. 

The proposal will halt new building and demolition permits downtown until December 1, 2016.

Many people at the meeting expressed concern that the University of Missouri's recent enrollment drop means there's no need for more student housing downtown.

Danielle Perez, an employee of Boone Olive Oil Co. downtown, said her biggest priority is preserving the historic district.

"I have read somewhere that Columbia is the Athens of the Midwest, meaning that the architecture is very well-known," Perez said. "Once a building is down, you can never get that back again."

The freeze also aims to address potential sewer overflows downtown. The city is working to install a bigger sewer system to accomodate the student housing influx. Third Ward Councilan Karl Skala said council members didn't anticipate these issues.

"It was a conversation that the mayor and I had a couple years ago," Skala said. "The idea was to increase residential housing downtown with relatively low-density housing."

He said the original blueprint for student housing did not take into account high-volume trash, sewer, and parking problems.

However, the development delay for multi-family housing includes non-student housing too. Some opponents to the freeze said this definition is too broad.

"We really need to think about who it is that we're targeting here," Columbia developer Tony Grove said.

Second Ward Councilman Michael Trapp said he is also against the proposal because he doesn't want to discourage people from living downtown and supports the area's growth.