COLUMBIA — The city's enhanced enterprise zone initiative probably is dead for now, but it appears that a proposed amendment to the city charter that was intended to ease fears that an EEZ would lead to the use of eminent domain will stay on the April 2 ballot.
The City Council voted Nov. 19 to place the amendment on the ballot. All amendments to the city's home rule charter are subject to a public vote.
Sixth Ward Councilwoman Barbara Hoppe proposed the amendment to address concerns that the blight designation required before the state will approve an EEZ might facilitate the city's exercise of eminent domain and the transfer of acquired properties to private developers.
Mayor Bob McDavid said he understands citizens' concerns about the designations.
"The primary concern was about some mischief happening in Columbia," McDavid said. "But this never really was an issue."
The board of directors of Regional Economic Development Inc. unanimously passed a resolution earlier this month asking the City Council to repeal the ordinance that established the Enhanced Enterprise Advisory Board. The council is scheduled to vote on the repeal at its Jan. 7 meeting.
REDI representatives said at the time that the public had made clear its opposition to EEZs in Columbia.
The debate, as reported in the Missourian, roiled throughout most of 2012. Arguments ensued about whether EEZs might harm property values and whether they would produce any real economic benefits.
Jeremy Root, an attorney and EEZ opponent who is also a member of Citizens Involved in Columbia, or CiViC, said the proposed charter amendment still has merit.
"Protections are appropriate and should be considered by voters," said Root, whom McDavid appointed to a second incarnation of the Enhanced Enterprise Advisory Board.
Third Ward Councilman Gary Kespohl also sees value in keeping the amendment on the ballot.
"I don't know if the EEZ will be brought up again in the future, but if it is, it might be beneficial to have this amendment in place," he said.
Root maintains that even if the amendment passes any future discussions about EEZs should focus on their suitability.
"The question of whether citizens in Columbia need increased protections from eminent domain abuse is separate from whether EEZs are appropriate for Columbia," he said.
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