Questions Remain After Council Approves Housing Complex

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COLUMBIA - After a meeting that lasted until nearly 1 a.m. Tuesday, Columbia City Council approved a new development agreement to build more student housing downtown. Opus Development Company will construct a 256-bedroom complex on Locust Street between Seventh and Eighth streets.

Tuesday afternoon, the city attorney told KOMU 8 News if opponents petition against the new plan, the original agreement would remain in effect. The group's original petition fell 91 signatures short and the group Repeal 6214 is in the process of gathering enough signatures to invalidate the initial petition. Early Tuesday morning, the petition group already started gathering signatures opposing the new, approved development.

In a letter to First Ward Councilwoman Ginny Chadwick, Avenue of the Columns Committee Chair Mary Wilkerson praised the development. Wilkerson wrote that the development is appropriate for the committee's master plan, which includes enhancing the character of downtown Columbia and creating a safe and visually pleasing pedestrian environment. 

"The community reaction at the meeting last night was clearly opposing it," First Ward Councilwoman Ginny Chadwick said. "But the community overall is embracing the negotiation that was made with the developer and are very glad that the change was made to an active ground floor. The Avenue of the Columns Committee fully supports the change and the project."

The debate has been a controversial one, with some citizens voicing concerns about traffic, parking and rent costs. A news release from opposition group, Repeal 6214 says more than 4,000 citizens have signed a petition to repeal the bill. Repeal 6214 argues that Columbia does not have the infrastructure to support a large downtown complex, particularly in regards to sewage and parking. The group also says the development is not consistent with prior downtown planning efforts.

(Editor's Note: This story has been updated to reflect new information from the city attorney.)