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Columbia City councilwoman, Opus Development agree to alter apartment plans

Monday, April 28, 2014 | 10:54 p.m. CDT; updated 2:42 p.m. CDT, Wednesday, May 7, 2014

COLUMBIA — Opus Development Company LLC and First Ward City Councilwoman Ginny Chadwick have hammered out an agreement to tweak a proposed downtown apartment building while removing the threat of litigation against the city.

Chadwick approached Opus on April 16 — two days after being sworn in — to ask the the developer to use the ground floor for non-residential space. Opus would replace the ground-level apartments facing Eighth Street with bigger windows and amenities such as a gym and a lounge. She also asked that they pass the new agreement through normal Columbia City Council procedures.

Timeline of Opus agreements

  • Feb. 17 — City Manager Mike Matthes announces downtown utilities are maxed out and no new development can occur.
  • March 3 — City staff details which projects could still proceed. Opus Development Co.'s Locust Street building is not on that list.
  • March 11 — An agenda is posted on the city website for a special noontime Columbia City Council meeting. The only things on the agenda are three student-housing development agreements, including Opus'.
  • March 19 — City Council passes Opus' and Collegiate Housing Partners' agreements; American Campus Communities' plan is tabled until May.
  • April 8 — A group of residents hands City Clerk Sheela Amin a petition to repeal the agreement that they claim has 3,633 signatures — 424 more than needed.

  • April 17 — Opus claims the language of the petition was flawed and issues an ultimatum: declare the petition invalid by April 22 or face legal action.
  • April 21 — Mayor Bob McDavid urges city staff to declare the petition invalid.
  • April 22 — Opus' deadline passes, and no lawsuit is filed.


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Opus will still pay $450,000 toward sewer and water utility improvements, which was part of the original agreement.

Chadwick will sponsor an ordinance to replace the current development agreement, Ordinance 62-14. The new ordinance will have its first reading at Monday's council meeting, setting it up for a possible May 19 vote.

A group of residents had submitted a petition to repeal the initial Opus agreement because they felt it was rushed through City Council. Opus threatened to sue the city for $5 million if the petition wasn't ruled invalid.

"There's 3,600 reasons that that petition was signed," Chadwick said. "Everybody has a different reason for not wanting the Opus project, but what the petition was for was for the city's lack of due process."

The petition group’s spokesman Jeremy Root sees the new deal as a step in the right direction, but “until we see what the development agreement says, we can’t judge whether or not it’s not a good idea.”

He added that the agreement doesn't solve the problem of overloaded sewers, but it would at least follow normal order.

Opus plans to build a 256-bed apartment complex in downtown Columbia.

On March 12, City Manager Mike Matthes convened a special noontime council meeting to introduce the initial Opus agreement, along with two others. They were debated at the regularly scheduled meeting March 17, then passed at another noontime meeting on March 19. Council typically takes two weeks to consider ordinances. 

Opus said the company needed to buy land and begin construction as soon as possible to remain on schedule for a August 2015 opening. Matthes pointed to that timetable to justify the noontime meetings.


Supervising editor is Adam Aton.

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Comments

Jack Hamm April 29, 2014 | 7:43 a.m.

Whichever Opus lawyer conned her into this deal should be given an award or bonus. From those that I have spoken too, the anti development crowd that elected her is not happy about this.

(Report Comment)
Michael Williams April 29, 2014 | 8:05 a.m.

JackH: I think you're right about the "not too happy about this" part. This building is gonna be built, and it is my belief that the real underlying goal was to have it not built.

Jeremy's phraseology is odd: "we can’t judge whether or not it’s not a good idea." That's a lot of telling "not"s.

I don't know if that's a prediction of what comes next, but he's sure going into it thinking it's NOT a good idea. Most folks with a positive outlook about something go into it with the notion "I like it, prove me wrong."

(Report Comment)
Jack Hamm April 29, 2014 | 8:26 a.m.

"and it is my belief that the real underlying goal was to have it not built."

When I was stopped by one of the repeal group asking me to sign the petition as I was walking my kids into the library that is how they framed the situation and intent to me. The lady collecting signatures distorted the facts so much that I was not sure she had any idea what she was really talking about. She did not mention sewers, infrastructure, or the process once either. It was all about the perceived student housing bubble, preserving downtown, outside developers, no ground floor retail etc.

First they complain about sprawl and demand infill then they fight infill. First they complain about traffic and a lack of parking then they complain that we build parking garages. First they complain that we don't have adequate services and infrastructure then fight us expanding our tax base to pay for those services.

The Jeremy Root, Pat Fowler, Adam Saunders, John Clark etc. coalition live in la-la land and they are going to destroy this town. I would also really appreciate it if these people would stop speaking on behalf of all Columbians. I know many people who are in strong support of downtown development. 3600 signatures does not represent 110,000 people.

(Report Comment)
Michael Williams April 29, 2014 | 8:41 a.m.

JackH: Excellent post that covered every possible angle. Especially your last paragraph, second sentence. Beautiful, concise, succinct rhetorical work.

All I can say is nice job. The Missourian should publish it in their printed version as a letter to the editor so more folks can see it.

There's nothing more for me to add.

(Report Comment)
John Clark April 29, 2014 | 10:55 a.m.

3/12/2014

The City Manager is proposing yet another generational opportunity to give the whole store away.
………
2. These agreements were negotiated, ex parte, without any approved policy guidance from the Council setting the parameters for such negotiations between staff and development applicants.

3. I believe approval of these specific agreements, and others like them in the future, pose threats to the full faith and credit of the City of Columbia that will likely lead the Council to raise utility rates for all and utility connection equity fees for future developments. As I understand the situation, issuance of an occupancy permit to a development allows that development to connect to the City utility systems and legally obligates the City to provide those services, including construction/financing of any necessary infrastructure and funding operating costs. Absent unlikely voter approval of bond financing for capital infrastructure, the principal funding mechanisms available to the City to secure the necessary funds are increased utility rates and system equity connection fees for future developments. The Council can impose these increases by a simple majority vote.

Simply put, approval of the proposed development agreements and others like them in the future places the full faith and credit of the City behind provision of the infrastructure and services. I do not think the Council would allow the full faith and credit of the City to be jeopardized. I believe they would raise the rates for all and the connection fees for new development to make up the shortfall.

4. The amounts of the exactions being asked for by the City Manager and offered by the developments are far too small based on any fiscally responsible analysis of the proportionate share of cost of the required infrastructure and the revenues expected to be received. There is a reason why the City Manager has been hiding the detailed cost/benefit analysis that the City commissioned in connection with its Central Columbia TIF District proposal.

…………

Recommendations:

The City Council should reject all three proposed development agreements by unanimous vote to protect the full faith and credit of the City of Columbia and to prevent the City utility rate payers and tax payers from being forced to subsidize unnecessary residential development downtown or any where in the City of Columbia.

The City Council should move to adopt the policy of implementing the sufficiency of resources requirement for issuance of both building permits and occupancy permits while prohibiting the type of arbitrary use of such rules to inappropriately pressure the Council for approval of various development applications, agreements, etc.

The City Council should move to create the policy parameters to guide the city staff in all ex parte negotiations with development applicants and other vendors.

(Report Comment)

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