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Columbia City Council approves Flat Branch sewer funding

Monday, July 21, 2014 | 11:21 p.m. CDT; updated 9:04 a.m. CDT, Tuesday, July 22, 2014

COLUMBIA — To remedy the ailing Flat Branch Relief Sewer, the Columbia City Council voted 4-3 Monday night to fund its $5.7 million replacement.

The council approved the appropriation of $2,311,158 from current city reserve funds with $150,000 of that figure coming student housing developer Collegiate Housing Partners. The council transferred $2,074,862 toward Flat Branch by postponing other sewer projects until later dates and will use reserve funds to maintain and boost sanitary sewer capacity downtown. A further $1,394,794 will be appropriated as part of the 2015 fiscal year budget, as a result of council's action Monday.

The Flat Branch Relief Sewer has capacity on dry days, according to presentations made by city staff, but overflows when rainwater gets into the sanitary sewer system. This phenomenon is known as inflow and infiltration, or I&I. 

The measure was originally on the consent agenda but was taken off at the request of Fourth Ward Councilman Ian Thomas.

The consent agenda is supposed to be for "noncontroversial, administrative, straightforward" issues, Thomas said before the meeting. Every bill on the consent agenda can be moved into old business to allow for further discussion and public comment.

Third Ward Councilman Karl Skala expressed doubt that replacing Flat Branch should be prioritized over fixing existing citywide I&I problems.

"I cannot in good conscience face down thousands of people and ignore the fact that they have been standing in line because of an overburdened system." Skala said. "This I&I thing is a huge issue."

Public Works Director John Glascock said that the Flat Branch mainline renovations would take at least two years to design before construction would start. 

Mayor Bob McDavid, Fifth Ward Councilwoman Laura Nauser, First Ward Councilwoman Ginny Chadwick and Second Ward Councilman Michael Trapp were the "yes" votes.

The council also considered and took action on the following:

Alpha Chi Omega Subdivision Plat 1 rezoning bills

What happened: Columbia City Council rejected a bill to allow the Chi Mu Alumni Association, which represents the MU chapter of Phi Gamma Delta, to rezone two plots of land the fraternity owns at 809 and 811 Tiger Ave., which are now single-family homes. The rezoning proposal also would have consolidated the two addresses into one lot and waived some landscaping requirements. The Planning and Zoning Commission unanimously voted to approve the measure on June 18.

Why: The houses, which currently house four tenants each, would have been demolished and the land will be rezoned for the construction of a private 33-space parking lot for use by Alpha Chi Omega sorority members.

Comments: Both ordinances were pulled off the consent agenda by Thomas. Thomas Snider, president of Chi Mu Alumni Association, appeared to represent the owners of the houses at 809 and 811 Tiger Ave. There are currently four tenants in each house whose leases will expire on July 31. Thomas questioned Snider on the motivation for the project.

"It is very reasonable that they would want to move their central parking unit nearer to their home," Snider said. "We're not completely altruistic. We will acquire parking closer to our area as well."

Thomas and Chadwick agreed that the project was not aligned with community plans to reduce surface parking.

"This is doing the exact opposite," Thomas said. "It's moving eight residents out and adding 33 cars."

Thomas recommended investigating options of off-site parking with a commuter system.

Mayor Bob McDavid invoked Joni Mitchell's "Big Yellow Taxi" as a part of his reason to vote against the agreement. Councilwoman Nauser said that the unanimous support of the Planning and Zoning Commission prompted her to vote yes. Councilman Trapp was the other supporting vote.

What's next: The houses will not be demolished, the parking lots will not be built, and the R-3 zoning will remain in place.

Supervising editor is Sam Hardiman.


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