Fourth Ward councilman criticizes city staff on downtown development

Monday, March 17, 2014 | 12:52 p.m. CDT; updated 1:47 p.m. CDT, Wednesday, May 7, 2014

*CORRECTION: Ian Thomas represents Columbia's Fourth Ward. An earlier version of this story incorrectly listed the ward.

COLUMBIA— Fourth Ward Councilman Ian Thomas* has criticized city staff for a lack of communication on downtown development issues in comments posted on his personal website.

Thomas also weighed in on pending agreements with three developers that would help finance infrastructure for the student housing projects that total more than 1,300 beds. (See document embedded below or click here to view it in DocumentCloud.)

Those agreements, released to the public on March 11, are up for a public hearing when the Columbia City Council meets at 7 p.m. Monday in City Hall. The council could vote on the agreements at another special meeting at noon Wednesday.

Thomas, noting the developers are seeking building permits by April 1, asked why the staff didn't begin the conversation at the March 3 City Council meeting or issue a news release.

“I am unhappy about another failure of effective communications from city staff," Thomas wrote. "The frenzied rush to schedule noon-time meetings and squeeze the process into the letter (but not the spirit) of the law, along with the absence of clear explanations to the public about what’s going on, has created deep suspicion and opposition."

Thomas expressed support for one of the proposed developments, Collegiate Housing Partners, citing the developer's community involvement in planning the project as well as a proposed car and bike sharing program for tenants.

Thomas said he wouldn’t support the American Campus Communities because of the size of the 700-bed project and 554 proposed parking spaces that would encourage automobile use near the MU campus.

He said that the Opus Development project’s early designs looked bland and the lack of proposed retail space on the ground floor was an issue.

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Kevin Gamble March 17, 2014 | 10:16 p.m.

Dr. Thomas is exactly right. I'm grateful to him for identifying this issue and helping underscore the differences between good and bad developments, and good and bad ways of conducting city business. I hope this discussion will lead to more rigorous standards in the future.

(Report Comment)
John Schultz March 18, 2014 | 10:33 a.m.

Someone refresh my memory, was there any citizen input to the Sasaki plan? You know that plan, the one that almost made Bengal's an eminent domain casualty and wants to punch Elm (I think it is?) through existing housing to connect with College?

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