Opus could learn fate of new student housing Thursday

Friday, August 29, 2014 | 6:46 p.m. CDT; updated 7:25 p.m. CDT, Friday, August 29, 2014

COLUMBIA — Opus Development Co. could learn Thursday whether it will get the green light to build a six-story, 259-bed student apartment building on Locust Street. 

U.S. District Judge Nanette Laughrey will hold a teleconference hearing at 3 p.m. Thursday on Opus' motion to dissolve the restraining order that has kept the city of Columbia from issuing permits the developer needs to begin construction.

During a teleconference Friday, Laughrey extended the restraining order by a day, so it will now expire on Sept. 5. She said it will either be dissolved on Thursday or the parties will discuss whether it should expire or be extended.

Laughrey also gave Opus the ability to intervene in Michael MacMann's and Betty Wilson's civil rights case against the city. She said the developer's ability to intervene is limited to contesting the restraining order that has kept Opus from beginning construction.

As a result of the plaintiffs' claims that their First Amendment rights would be immediately or irreparably harmed if the city gave Opus permits, a state judge issued the restraining order Aug. 13. Laughrey extended it by 10 days after the case was moved to federal court.

The plaintiffs say the city violated their rights to referendum and free speech after it kept moving the project through the development process despite two petitions against the city's agreements with the developer.

Laughrey initially ruled against allowing Opus to intervene, but changed her mind after the city's attorney, Christopher Rackers, said the city would not file a motion to dissolve the restraining order because of the possibility of a breach of contract lawsuit from Opus.

Supervising editor is Scott Swafford.

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