COLUMBIA — After voting down a Tax Increment Financing initiative during its last meeting, the Columbia City Council used its precouncil work session Monday to explore the options for funding infrastructure improvements needed for future downtown development.
City staff prepared a situation report for the council that detailed which projects could and could not proceed based on infrastructure capacity. Six projects were given the green light; eight were not. Water and electric services are available for some projects, but the lack of sewer capacity was an overriding issue for every project on hold.
- The Broadway Hotel (112 beds)
- The Brookside Apartments on Walnut Street (no number of beds available)
- The Lofts at Beals on Ninth Street (42 beds)
- The Lofts at 404 S. Ninth St. (96 beds)
- The Lofts at 1101 E. Walnut St. (no number of beds available)
- A two-story, 27-unit complex at 1322 Paris Road (108 beds)
Sewer capacity took center stage for most of the work session, as Mayor Bob McDavid outlined a proposal to finance the $6.75 million enlargement of a sewer pipe near MKT Nature and Fitness Trail that runs toward the Columbia Wastewater Treatment Plant.
A key part of McDavid's proposal was the $1.6 million the city has in reserves for sewer projects. That sum, plus usage and connect fees, would take a hefty chunk out of the money needed to finance sewer enlargement, McDavid said.
"What we need to do is look at these projects one-by-one," he said. The city would charge about $800 to connect an apartment unit to the sewer system, "so let's figure out how much we're going to get in connect charges, and we'll deduct that down from the money we need to come up with."
The amount of money brought in by connect fees is one of the "knowable" facts that McDavid is pressing city staff to provide council members.
Opponents of the TIF initiative agreed with McDavid that something could be done immediately to boost sewer capacity so developers would have the chance to build.
Fourth Ward Councilman Ian Thomas said he is open to addressing sewer needs — as long as there is meaningful discussion about overhauling the fees developers pay the city.
Sixth Ward Councilwoman Barbara Hoppe agreed with Thomas. She said she was open to the idea, but she's waiting on what the city's consultant, Clarion Associates, recommends about modifying C-2 zoning requirements.
Most of downtown is currently zoned C-2 and doesn't have requirements for parking or limits on how tall a building can be.
Every member of council was present at the work session and the following council meeting, except Fifth Ward Councilwoman Laura Nauser.
The council voted down the TIF initiative 5-2 at its Feb. 17 meeting. Mayor Bob McDavid and Second Ward Councilman Michael Trapp were the only two members of the council to vote for the measure.
Council members said they would continue discussing their options at a Columbia City Council Retreat on March 18 and 19.
Supervising editor is Adam Aton.