*This story has been updated to reflect that Downtown Leadership Council member Deb Sheals opposes a moratorium on demolition permits downtown.
COLUMBIA — Two downtown-focused committees are at odds over a moratorium bill.
Days after the Downtown Community Improvement District voiced its adamant opposition, the Downtown Columbia Leadership Council voted Tuesday to support City Council Bill 375-12, which would place a moratorium on the issuance of demolition permits to downtown property owners. Two leadership council members — Bob Hutton and Gary Ward — opposed the motion. Member Deb Sheals notified the city on Wednesday that she mistakenly voted in favor of the motion that she intended to oppose. City officials have amended the record to reflect her opposition.*
The moratorium bill was tabled Jan. 7 after Third Ward Councilman Gary Kespohl requested input from the pair of entities responsible for oversight of the downtown area. Kespohl was in attendance Tuesday.
While the moratorium does not specifically mention the Niedermeyer building, the owner of the Niedermeyer, Fred Hinshaw, and the developer wanting to build on the property, Collegiate Housing Partners, have threatened to file lawsuits against the city if the bill passes.
No limits with C-2 zoning
Although the Downtown Columbia Leadership Council supports the bill and the Downtown Community Improvement District opposes the bill, the two entities did agree on one point: C-2 zoning must be revised.
Where other designations limit use of a property, C-2 permits anything from shops to restaurants to high-rise apartments. That it also does not limit building height or setback gave some council members pause.
"C-2 isn’t necessarily ‘one-size-fits-all’ for downtown," said Rosie Gerding, a member of the leadership council.
The rapid proliferation of student housing has also exacerbated existing issues downtown, such as parking and infrastructure. With several multistory projects under way, council members concluded that putting the revision off is no longer an option.
With change on the horizon, though, council Chairman Brent Gardner worries downtown property owners might "jump the gun" and make major changes before new regulations go into effect. To proceed with revision without a temporary halt in development, he reasoned, would be dangerous.
A timeline for changes
But while a majority of its members agreed that a moratorium should be established, the council remained divided in its feelings toward the duration of the halt.
"I think a six-month moratorium is nothing," Gerting said, suggesting little progress could be made in such a short span of time.
Deb Sheals, Downtown Community Improvement District liaison to the Downtown Columbia Leadership Council, argued the opposite. A closer deadline, she said, would put pressure on city officials to get something done.
The City Council will vote on the moratorium bill at its regular meeting Tuesday.