COLUMBIA — After more than two months of public push back, the Columbia City Council might partially rescind its Feb. 6 resolution that designated more than half the city as blighted.
In response to a report given Monday by the Regional Economic Development Inc. to address the consequences of rescinding the blight decree, the council approved a motion to draft a resolution that would rescind certification of a map that encompasses blighted areas. Fifth Ward Councilwoman Helen Anthony made a motion to hear the resolution at the next meeting.
But public concerns remain about the second provision of the February resolution, which also established a seven-member Enhanced Enterprise Zone Advisory Board. In order to develop an enhanced enterprise zone, the formation of an advisory board is required by state statute.
In its report to the council, REDI wrote that rescinding the resolution in its entirety would eliminate the advisory board and thus "all of the work and effort that has gone into this process, all of which has been done in good faith effort” by the board.
Residents, however, felt left out of the determination of the advisory board’s members.
"The Enhanced Enterprise Zone Advisory Board suffers from the same problems as the blight map," said Jeremy Root, a Columbia resident who got up to speak during public comment. "Although there has been good work done by the advisory board, there are genuine concerns about its representativeness."
A political action committee, Citizens Involved and Invested in Columbia, circulated a petition last week contesting the legality of the board's formation. They argued that, in creating a governing body with potential legislative power by resolution, the council violated city charter and deprived citizens of their rightful input in the process.
Dan Goldstein, a member of the group who spoke during public comment, reported Monday night that it has gathered more than 700 signatures in its efforts so far.
But Anthony pointed to the board's ability to provide recommendations to the council as a benefit.
"It is not my wish at all to rescind that part of the resolution," Anthony said, adding that the council relied on the board's advice to adopt a smaller map, a process in which Columbia's "engaged citizenry" should also play a role.
Per Anthony's motion, if the resolution passes the council would certify the map with an ordinance, which allows for public hearings.
REDI President Mike Brooks said he anticipates a finalized version of the map to be available by the first week of May.