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"SUSPICION AND OPPOSITION": Councilman Thomas "unhappy" with city manager, student apartment process

Thomas supports one of three projects

COLUMBIA, Mo 3/17/14 (Beat Byte) --
Urging long-overdue attention to long-term planning and condemning the city manager's office for poor communications, 4th Ward Columbia City Councilman Ian Thomas has come out swinging about three student apartment projects Council members will hear public testimony about Monday night.

"I am unhappy about another failure of effective communications from City staff," Thomas writes in a brief statement of his position.   "The frenzied rush to schedule noon-time meetings and squeeze the process into the letter (but not the spirit) of the law, along with the absence of clear explanations to the public...has created deep suspicion and opposition."

Though his vote may change, Thomas plans to support only one of the three projects, which together would add 1,335 new student apartment units to the downtown area.  "Our priorities (from Columbia Imagined Visioning Statement) should be Neighborhood Planning; Adequate equity fees for new development; and Downtown zoning," Thomas explains.

City Hall has just started to revamp its controversial C-2 zoning code, beloved by student apartment developers for its opaque guidelines and "loopholes you can drive a semi-truck through," Historic Preservation and Downtown Leadership Commissioner Brian Treece told the Council last year.

The first agreement before the City Council tonight will approve Austin, Tx-based American Campus Communities' 728-unit student apartment complex along Providence Road, Turner Avenue, and Fifth Streets, to open August 2016.
 
The second agreement will approve St. Louis-based Collegiate Housing Partners 315-unit student apartment complex along Conley Avenue, between Fourth Street and Fifth Street, set to open July 2015.  


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The third agreement will approve Minneapolis-based Opus Development's 256-unit student apartment complex on the north side of Locust Street, between Seventh Street and Eighth Street, set to open August 2015.

Mr. Thomas said he supports Collegiate Housing Partners' (CHP) project, in part because they "worked collaboratively with the community in canceling plans to develop the Niedermeyer site and helped find a new owner."   The project has also received widespread Planning and Zoning Commission, City Council, and neighborhood support.

"But I do not feel the same about the other two projects," Thomas explains, most notably because neither project encourages enough mass transit and pedestrian transportation.  "My plan at present (but I may learn something new) is to support CHP and not the other two." 

Ian Thomas position statement on three new student apartment projects
 

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