Another downtown housing project to be proposed

COLUMBIA, Mo. - Columbia city council is getting ready for what's sure to be another downtown development dilemma Monday night.

Councilman Karl Skala is supporting a bill that would allow a five-story, 36-bed apartment complex to be built on the corner of Tenth and Broadway, in what is currently the parking lot for Buchroeder's Jewelers and Parker Funeral Home.

This comes just a few months after city leaders said downtown development was essentially on hold until the city can repair aging infrastructure.

ABC 17 News reached out to Karl Skala to find out why another housing complex is being proposed when we haven't found a solution to fund the infrastructure repairs yet, but he wasn't available for a comment because of the Easter holiday.

Supporters say this is a comparatively small project, but Ginny Chadwick, newly elected first ward council person, doesn't think the city can handle it.

"Whether the proposal is a good one or not, it's not a good time," Chadwick said. "I'm not sure why it's on the agenda if we don't have the infrastructure. It's a small impact project and the type of development we want but we have to pick development based on ordinances and what's allowed, not what we want."

She said the city needs to first figure out a way to pay for infrastructure repairs before approving any more housing complexes.

This developer agreed to pay $50,000 for sewer upgrades.

"Ultimately all the sewage runs down to flat branch area where our sewage is coming up into the creek," she said.

But Chadwick wondered what other developers will think if we allow this complex and not others.  Especially because one developer - Opus Group - is threatening legal action against the city if leaders decide it can't build.

"It's not an even playing field right now if we're letting some go and not others," Chadwick said.

And that will be another fight Monday night - a citizen petition to stop development by Opus.  It's a petition Chadwick said she agreed with.

"I've said, 'If this is the will of the people, I'm willing to uphold that,'" Chadwick said.

There will be a closed meeting before the council meeting for members to meet with Opus and the opposition.

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