More controversy for Mr. Schmidt

COLUMBIA, Mo 11/12/13 (Beat Byte) -- In a tense and uncomfortable televised moment last week, First Ward Columbia City Councilman Fred Schmidt abruptly ended an interview with a KOMU news reporter. 

The move follows a string of political blunders that have dogged Mr. Schmidt since he took office in 2011.   It was so unusual -- an elected official refusing to answer questions about a controversial development in his district -- the television station has aired promos about it for four days.   The roughly 4-minute segment showed last night. 

Mr. Schmidt objected to inquiries from reporter William Joy about a 24-story student apartment building planned for the Councilman's Ward at the corner of Sixth and Elm streets, currently home to Bengals Bar and Grill.   "I think it's a marvelous development," Schmidt said, contrasting the building's high-rise design with suburban sprawl.  

But uncertainty has followed the proposal since it was announced in October.  The building will dwarf both Garagezilla and the Tiger Hotel, while providing parking for only 50% of its residents. 

It may also violate a "Columbia Imagined" mandate.  "The personality and character of neighborhoods should be preserved," the much-touted, community-wide plan reads.  City Hall should "provide incentives, tools, and protections to discourage contextually inappropriate redevelopment."

The same argument recently halted construction of a CVS Pharmacy on the corner of Providence and Broadway.  Mr. Schmidt voted against the pharmacy. 

Council members can do little to stop the student high-rise short of a moratorium similar to one Mr. Schmidt voted to approve during a similar controversy.  With a high-rise in mind, student apartment developers proposed demolishing the historic Niedermeyer building downtown.  

Joy wanted to know if Mr. Schmidt would support a similar moratorium on the 24-story plan.  "What is the thing that you're looking for in the plans?" Joy asked.  "Is it height?  Is it parking?  Is it development on the bottom floors?  Is it design?"

"We've already talked about a lot of that during this interview," Mr. Schmidt replied.  "I think at this point we're having a debate because I think you disagree with me, so I'm...I'm done!" 

"Really?"  Joy responded. 

"Yeah," Schmidt said.   Appearing flustered, Mr. Schmidt unzipped his jacket to remove the microphone.   Should he decide to run for a second term, Mr. Schmidt faces re-election in April.