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.
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
"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.