Ordinance to establish EEZ Board in Columbia receives first reading

Wednesday, May 9, 2012 | 7:45 p.m. CDT; updated 12:56 p.m. CDT, Thursday, May 10, 2012

COLUMBIA — At 6 p.m. Wednesday, a special meeting of the City Council was called to order.

At 6:02 p.m., the meeting was adjourned.

In the space of those 120 seconds, Council Bill 121-12 — an ordinance that would add provisions for the establishment of an Enhanced Enterprise Zone Board to the City Code — received its first reading.

Wednesday's special session occurred only two days after the rescission of Resolution 20-12A, which created an enhanced enterprise zone advisory board in addition to finding blight or its precursors in 60 percent of Columbia.

The resolution was the first step in the city's application for an enhanced enterprise zone, a tax incentive program marketed by officials at Regional Economic Development Inc. as a way to generate manufacturing jobs in Columbia.

Before the meeting, Mayor Bob McDavid predicted there would be no real discussion. "(The meeting is) a formality, an advertisement," he said.

A public hearing will be held May 21, when the bill receives its second reading.

Dan Goldstein, one of several leaders of Citizens Involved and Invested in Columbia, or CiViC, said he disapproved of the council's haste in adopting an ordinance. He said, however, that he and other CiViC members were not surprised by it.

"We pretty much expected it," Goldstein said.

Goldstein said he'd like to see neighborhood representation among the new board members. Citizens — not private firms like REDI — should direct development, he continued.

The board's composition is mandated in the enhanced enterprise zone statute. Thus, the new advisory board will have a framework identical to its original iteration. Its members will include:

  • One member appointed by the Columbia Public School District.
  • One member appointed by a taxing entity within the proposed enhanced enterprise zone.
  • Five members appointed by the mayor.

Whether the five open seats will be filled by new individuals has yet to be decided. McDavid said he has requested recommendations for these spots from council members.

Sixth Ward Councilwoman Barbara Hoppe called public input a vital part of the process of implementing and maintaining an enhanced enterprise zone. She said she would consider recommending citizens to serve on the board.

McDavid said he is open to this and any other suggestion. "I want (the council) to have ownership of this," he said.

Unlike the Feb. 6 resolution, a finding of blight was not included in Wednesday's ordinance.

McDavid said the new board will recommend new boundaries for the enhanced enterprise zone, which will be considered in a second ordinance. A timeline for when that ordinance will be available has not been specified.

At the end of the day, McDavid said, the council has the final word on the boundaries. Citizens are free to approach their councilperson with input.

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