Columbia's agreements with developers moving too fast, residents say

Monday, March 17, 2014 | 10:50 p.m. CDT; updated 1:46 p.m. CDT, Wednesday, May 7, 2014

COLUMBIA — Tensions around the city's agreements with student-housing developers boiled over during Monday's meeting of the Columbia City Council.

Resident Jeremy Root said he was "flabbergasted" by how fast city staff has moved on some student-housing projects. After Root finished speaking, City Manager Mike Matthes began to defend how the city has handled the issue — until Root interrupted him.  

Proposed development projects

Collegiate Housing Partners: Six-story apartment structure with 351 beds on the south side of Conley Avenue, between Fourth and Fifth streets

Opus Development Co.: Six-story building with 256 beds on the north side of Locust Street, between Seventh and Eighth streets.

American Campus Communities: Five-story building with 718 beds at the intersection of Turner Avenue and Providence Road

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"You're out of order," Mayor Bob McDavid said, pounding his gavel.

Residents in the council chambers began shouting at the mayor, "You're out of order!"

At that point, McDavid called a 5-minute recess. Matthes said he would have anyone acting out of order removed from the chambers.

The council was discussing an agreement with three student-housing developers — Collegiate Housing Partners, Opus Development and American Campus Communities — to finance improvements to downtown's utility infrastructure in return for building permits.

Despite an earlier agreement with American Campus Communities, Matthes said the developer gave the city an updated estimate of electric requirements the city couldn't meet. Therefore, city staff no longer recommends passing the developer's proposal, he said.

Without that project, Deputy City Manager Tony St. Romaine said the city would have to pay American Campus Communities's $300,000 prorated share of a connecting sewer main.

St. Romaine acknowledged that these agreements won't fix the city's systemic infrastructure problems.

"What we're looking at doing here with these three development agreements is certainly not ideal," he said. "It's very much a piecemeal approach. We still have a much bigger problem with our infrastructure."

More than a dozen people commented on the Collegiate Housing Partners proposal. The majority expressed support of the proposal but concern over the city's method of passing the development agreements.

The three student housing developments are scheduled for a vote at noon Wednesday during a special City Council meeting.

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Traci Wilson-Kleekamp March 18, 2014 | 9:16 a.m.

Um.. it looks to me like the City Manager thinks he's running a plantation. I think not. Time for the council to boot his behind. There is NO SKILL being applied to this process and it is insulting. Plantation politicians don't care about process, public trust and in this case...they clearly can't do basic math. This is very dangerous (irresponsible) when there is no infrastructure financing policy in place and the infrastructure is MAXED out downtown. The cart keeps being put before the horse. Making an agreement to leave the tab to the public without doing the math in advance or having a public debate is beyond POOR management.. it's NO MANAGEMENT. Bye, bye. Adios, See ya later...enough of this nonsense!

(Report Comment)
John Schultz March 18, 2014 | 10:36 a.m.

And the phrase plantation politicians isn't insulting?

(Report Comment)
Richard Saunders March 18, 2014 | 10:45 a.m.

Gee, Traci, for a "community organizer" type, you sure do a good job of spreading hatred and discontent.

I guess you don't realize that all you've done is to generate sympathy for the City's leaders?

Here's a clue. Every time you open your mouth, the "other side" looks a little less stupid as a result.

They appreciate your service.

(Report Comment)
John Schultz March 18, 2014 | 10:50 a.m.

Well, I don't know that she's engendering sympathy for the council or city manager, but it's not helping her side certainly. Some nasty stuff on Twitter last night as well, but haven't had a time to go through it all yet.

(Report Comment)
Kevin Gamble March 18, 2014 | 12:09 p.m.

Pile on to Traci if you like, but she's right.

There is a very real and justified well of anger and disgust that is coming to the surface in this town. Most people don't like what has been happening, how it's been happening, and what it is so far doing to our town. City leaders would be wise to not just notice it, but respond to it by changing course.

This city is in full-on-exploitation mode. The deals being handed to fly-by-night development interests, and how quickly those forced-through developments are changing the city's character, are unprecedented in my nearly 40 years of living here.

(Report Comment)
Ellis Smith March 18, 2014 | 12:26 p.m.

Yes, but when the citizens have shelled out for those new brick-paved streets those streets will be so soothing it will calm everyone down.

[See my post today on that subject. Is anyone running the store down there?]

(Report Comment)
Traci Wilson-Kleekamp March 18, 2014 | 6:11 p.m.

LOL. Plantation politics is about privileged folks calling the shots as if the constituents (residents, taxpayers and the like) are unpaid servants and have no say in the process. If saying Mr. Mathes should be booted spreads discontentment; that is hilarious.

Far from hateful, I'm being truthful. Mr. Mathes is being paid for his professional expertise and he is exercising none of that. He appears to not value a transparent process nor community input. When a professional fails as regularly as he has on the subject of policy (while pandering to developers) he is not serving the public interest. Nasty (and disrepectful) is when you repeatedly abuse the process to keep the taxpayers in the dark while attempting to make them pay an unfair share of the infrastructure bill. His lack of attention to policy in my opinion is grounds for dismal.

The public has been asking for a public policy conversation for more than 10 years. In this case; our council leaders are failing to get their employee (the City Manager) on target therefore: It's Always the Council's Fault.

Mr. Mathes isn't sorry (at least not publicly) for letting us down on infrastructure, vision and planning and I am not sorry for being disappointed (not to mention frustrated) with the incredibly poor process.

(Report Comment)
Traci Wilson-Kleekamp March 18, 2014 | 10:18 p.m.

Sorry correction:

Mathes' lack of attention to public policy related to infrastructure policy in my opinion is grounds for dismissal -- termination... FIRED!

The council can chuckle about the public's response at their retreat, but the lack of public trust is real.

(Report Comment)
Ellis Smith March 19, 2014 | 6:37 a.m.
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