COLUMBIA — Ginny Chadwick will be cautious about voting on developments that don't follow Columbia's current city plan, Columbia Imagined, the First Ward candidate said during her campaign.
Chadwick, who defeated the other candidates on the ballot Tuesday, distanced herself from incumbent Fred Schmidt, who recently sided with a 4-3 majority on the Columbia City Council in approving a development agreement with Opus Development Co. to build a six-story building with 256 beds on the north side of Locust Street.
Schmidt was the swing vote on the agreement with Opus, approving the bill with council members Michael Trapp of the Second Ward, Laura Nauser of the Fifth Ward and Mayor Bob McDavid.
Before the election, Chadwick said she would have voted against the agreement with Opus. But if the agreement would have been amended to follow Columbia Imagined to include retail space on the first level and if the city had a plan for updating downtown infrastructure, she would have voted yes, she said.
The agreement with Opus is the subject of an initiative petition drive that seeks to repeal that vote. The petition, which got 3,633 signatures, was handed in Tuesday to the city clerk's office.
Chadwick said she supported residents voicing their feelings against the agreement, but she did not sign the petition.
Chadwick has said that her vote would be more progressive than Schmidt's, and she said she felt she was politically opposite from Nauser, who ran unopposed for her Fifth Ward seat.
Chadwick said the point of the council seat is to reflect the ward, and she would put a priority on people's needs above business development.
"I'll put the bus system before the airport," she said.
Andrew Sommer, a resident of the First Ward for six years, said before the election that he thought that any of the First Ward candidates would tend to side with a faction of the City Council — Karl Skala of the Third Ward, Ian Thomas of the Fourth Ward and Barbara Hoppe of the Sixth Ward — that questioned some new developments.
Sommer, a member of the Bicycle and Pedestrian Commission and the Finance Advisory and Audit Committee, said Chadwick indicated she would be more picky about approving new developments.
There is a symbiotic relationship between the business community and residents, Sommer said, and he is concerned with the growing anti-development sentiments on council.
"We're a growing, vibrant town," Sommer said. "We're not a retirement community."
Write-in candidate John Clark said he aspired to be the fourth vote with Hoppe, Skala and Thomas when it comes to issues that follow the outline of Chapter 4 in Columbia Imagined. This chapter outlines the plan for growth and development and policies to go along with new development.
Byndom, although never stating any specifics on his platform, said in a public comment for the city's development agreement with Opus that downtown seemed branded for students.
Nauser noted that any of the First Ward candidates would be new to the City Council and would face a learning curve.
"You think you know how a city runs, and when you get on council you realize you know nothing," Nauser said.
It's easy for a candidate to say how they will vote now, but that changes when you're in the position, Nauser said. Council members have to look at the issue and weigh the options and sometimes end up in a situation where they vote opposite of what they said in their campaign, Nauser said.
"This election is all about issues," said Mark Farnen, a Fifth Ward resident who has been involved in many local elections.
Voters are looking for a candidate who can fill the leadership role needed to work with both the council and residents to solve problems in both the First Ward and the city as a whole, he said.
"I don't think this election is going to seriously change the makeup," he said.
He said he doesn't expect dramatic changes in the council's nature because there will be only one new voice.
Farnen said it's dangerous to characterize the council in unified groups because the members vote on topics, not in groups, and they don't always agree.
"None of the candidates have held an elected office. We don't have a track record. We only have what they said during their campaign," he said.
The next elected council member will probably have a progressive approach similar to past First Ward representatives, Farnen said before the winner was determined.
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