Repeal group submits additional signatures for Opus petition

Wednesday, July 16, 2014 | 10:26 p.m. CDT; updated 6:58 a.m. CDT, Thursday, July 17, 2014

COLUMBIA — Petitioners belonging to the group Repeal 6214 submitted an additional 630 signatures Wednesday morning as part of an amended petition designed to block the city's second development agreement with Opus Development Co.

The group's June 9 petition against the deal was ruled 140 signatures short of the 3,209 required. The petitioners had 14 days from July 2, when City Clerk Sheela Amin notified the group of its insufficiency, to file a supplementary petition, according to Section 131 of the City Charter.

The city now has 30 days to vet the additional signatures for validity, but Amin said she does not expect it to take that long.

Repeal 6214 draws its name from the bill number of the original agreement with Opus, the St. Louis-based developer planning to build a six-story, 260-bed apartment complex on Locust Street between Seventh and Eighth streets.

Spokesman Jeremy Root said the group was confident it had submitted enough signatures to make the petition sufficient.

"We expect the city will validate these signatures and take no further action in connection with the Opus development pending a council decision on whether to repeal the ordinance," he said.

If the amended petition is ruled valid, the Columbia City Council will have 30 days to act on it, Amin said. The development agreement would appear before the council again, and it could either vote to repeal the ordinance or allow voters to decide its fate on the November ballot.

The development agreement states that Opus would contribute $450,000 for improvements to ailing utilities downtown and amend building designs to accommodate city planning. According to the text of the agreement, the $450,000 contribution would be broken down into $250,000 for offsite water system improvements and $200,000 for offsite sanitary sewer improvements.

Root said the promise of $450,000 to fund infrastructure downtown did not sway Repeal 6214's decision to see the petition process through to the end. Columbia residents have asked "not once, but twice" to delay the Opus development until the city has adequate infrastructure to support it downtown, he said.

The group successfully petitioned against the city's first development agreement with Opus, and the City Council repealed the agreement on June 16.

"Nothing has changed between February and now regarding available infrastructure to serve the development," Root said. "Two hundred thousand dollars for sewer is insufficient to create enough capacity to serve this development, and the city would admit that."

The group's petition against the first agreement, which was originally submitted April 8, was ruled 91 signatures short. Amin notified the group of the petition's insufficiency on May 1, and eight days later the group submitted 237 more valid signatures.

Should the latest petition fail and the agreement proceed, Opus' $200,000 contribution might go toward the Flat Branch Watershed Relief Sewer projects. The council might vote Monday on whether to move previously planned projects to 2017 in order move up the Flat Branch projects.

Supervising editor is Mary Ryan.

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