Demonstrators feel their voices aren\'t heard for Opus project

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COLUMBIA - Chants of "People's need, not corporate greed", and "We don't blame the workers, we blame the council" could be heard in downtown Columbia Tuesday amidst the beating of drums.

About 20 protesters gathered for an hour on Locust Street to protest against the Opus student housing complex. They held up signs saying, "Columbia needs more affordable housing not luxury housing," "Council - listen to the people, stop Opus" and even witty slogans like, "Stop octOPUS tentacles."

Columbia resident Sid Sullivan said the repeal group that put this together wanted to show the public that there is organized opposition to the Opus development in the downtown area.

"We feel we've been betrayed by city council. Opus admits that they will at least gain $5 million from the building itself. They're really exploiting the lacks of zoning ordinances in the downtown area. We the people will be given the bill to pay for the sewer and electric and the water."

Sullivan said the purpose of the demonstration is to help the public understand the issues, and to be aware of them.

"You don't build in the downtown area and provide affordable student housing. And we need affordable student housing."

Another Columbia resident Linda Green said her concern is the city needs more low-income student housing.

"We don't need anymore upscale student housing because we already have enough upscale student housing," Green said. "What we need is low-income student housing. That is very short-supplied in this town. And the infrastructure problem is not going away. We've been told it has, but that's not what we were told before. So it's like...what can we believe that the city says now."

"We just need to have the city council listen to us."

City Councilman Mike Trapp said he feels the concerns of the public are being heard by him and the other council members. He said they are attentive to the public process but "can't always adopt everyone's policy that they recommend to us."

The Opus project began Friday morning and is scheduled to be completed by the end of July 2015.