COLUMBIA – The group known as Repeal 6214 handed in a referendum petition Monday afternoon in an attempt to force the Columbia City Council to repeal the city's second agreement with a student-housing developer or put the issue to Columbia voters.
The group, which draws its name from the bill number of the original Opus Development Co. agreement, handed in the petition bearing what they say is 3,711 signatures to City Clerk Sheela Amin in her office at Daniel Boone City Building. Repeal 6214 has already submitted a petition aimed at the original Opus agreement because of concerns over the one-week process the council used to pass it in March.
As part of the agreement, Opus would contribute $450,000 to sanitary sewer and water utilities needed to serve the proposed 260-bed, six-story project and buy bus passes for residents for two years. The developer plans to build the student-housing complex on Locust Street between Seventh and Eighth streets. The infrastructure contributions are also part of the first agreement.
The second agreement was sponsored by First Ward Councilwoman Ginny Chadwick, in part, to remedy the repeal group's concerns about the council's process. If no petition had been submitted by Monday for its repeal, the ordinance would have rescinded the city's first agreement with Opus and replaced it with the new agreement.
The repeal of the first agreement being contingent upon not petitioning the second agreement angered the group, and its attorney Josh Oxenhandler threatened the city with a lawsuit in a letter addressed to the council and Mayor Bob McDavid, according to previous Missourian reporting.
Confused by what has happened with this ordinance? Here is a round-up of what happened before the petition was submitted and how things could move forward.
In the letter, Oxenhandler wrote the council had no authority to enact a second ordinance to repeal the first. He also wrote that the council "took coordinated action to pre-empt the referendum ... and absolute intent to silence the political speech of thousands of Columbians."
Repeal 6214's spokesman Jeremy Root said the group submitted the second petition for several other reasons, including:
- Holding the city accountable for what petitioners view as a violation of due process. The City Council used an abbreviated process to pass the original development agreement with Opus Development Co.
- Concerns about the proposed project's impact on downtown's ailing infrastructure.
- Concerns with the student housing development's ability to conform to established city plans.
"There's been a little confusion in the community because it's the second effort," Root said. "But when you talk to people, it doesn't take them long to understand the issue."
The group has been gathering signatures in diverse ways, Root said. One of its larger collections efforts took place at Art in the Park at Stephens Lake Park this past weekend.
Root said Chadwick engaged in a petition "blocking effort" at the event. Numerous petitioners witnessed Chadwick asking the public to not sign the petition, he said.
Chadwick disagreed with this account of events. She said she attended Art in the Park as a citizen and not in any official capacity. Chadwick said she was mocked by petitioners, and, in response, she then began asking residents why they were signing the petition. After that, she said, petitioners screamed at her.
Amin said the city clerk's office will work with the Boone County clerk's office to verify signatures are from registered Columbia voters and ensure there are no duplicates. The petition has to be vetted within 30 days, according to the city charter Section 130.
If the petition has enough valid signatures and there are no other flaws, the council would have to consider its repeal or put the issue to the voters within 30 days, as required by Section 133 of the city charter.
The petition needs 3,209 signatures from registered Columbia voters to be valid. That number represents one-fourth of the number of votes cast in the 2013 mayoral election, which is required by Section 128 of the city charter. In order to be valid, the petition also needs to include the full name, number and text of the ordinance it's trying to repeal, which the petition handed in to Amin on Monday includes.
If the petition doesn't have enough valid signatures or is insufficient in any other way, the petitioners will have 14 days to gather more, Amin said.
The council could act on the first petition on June 16 when it hears the second reading of two bills concerned with the first petition. On May 29, Amin notified the petitioners they had received 3,446 valid signatures on their first petition. One bill, 162-14, would allow a council vote on the repeal of the original agreement which remains in place. If the council were to vote against repeal, the next bill, 163-14, would allow the council to call a special election for Nov. 4 to allow voters to decide the issue.
Supervising editor is Samuel Hardiman.