Some unhappy as infrastructure improvement plans advance

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COLUMBIA - The Downtown Leadership Council (DLC) joined with Columbia City Council to make a Blue Ribbon Commission to look in to infrastructure issues. 

The group will study infrastructure and work with the city to make necessary improvements.

The Chair of the DLC, Brent Gardner, said this is necessary because the city needs to have a group with expertise in handling issues. 

"We felt like we weren't experts in the area of specific infrastructure and council wanted more specific recommendations."

Once the group finishes its study, it will start making recommendations to the council about what to do with infrastructure. 

Members of the group will not be paid. 

"We're trying to figure out how many people will be on the commission," Gardner said. "The fewer the people, the more you get done, but there would also be fewer ideas represented." 

Gardner said there are a lot of ideas about who should be involved, but that decision won't be made until the DLC meets with the city council about the issue. 

"It's something that has to be formed now, because it not going to start immediately, we'll have to have a little bit of slow growth getting up and running. But we know it needs to start as soon as possible." 

Some Columbia residents are unhappy about the way the city is handling the infrastructure issues downtown. 

Peter Yronwode has joined with other Columbia residents to picket in front of downtown apartment offices. 

They have picketed in front of The District Flats building several times because of that company's association with Opus Development Group. 

"The city government has allowed a whole bunch of new development to take place without addressing the infrastructure needs of that new development." 

Yronwode said he chose to picket because he felt like he didn't have a voice in the decision to move forward with building projects. 

"The city council denied the citizens the right to vote on the OPUS project by moving forward to grant them their building permits and not allowing  a referendum," Yronwode said. "I believe because OPUS wanted to move forward with construction in a hurry." 

He said many of the issues that OPUS raised in the community still exist. 

"If they're allowed to open, then the problems, particularly with the sewer, are likely to take place." 

Yronwode said his group is done picketing for the time being because everyone has busy schedules, but that they still will remain active in the fight against new development without infrastructure.