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Columbia City Council Passes Ordinance Delaying Downtown Development

A map provided to Columbia City Council shows which areas will be affected by the ordinance. The boundaries of the delay extend through the green and blue regions, but the bold shape outlined in the center encloses MU property that won't be affected.

Multi-family housing development downtown will be put on hold after the Columbia City Council adopted an ordinance imposing an administrative delay on approvals late in the evening Monday, May 16. The bill, which passed with a vote of 5-2 after just over an hour and a half of tense discussion and public comment, was specifically designed to target the rapidly growing number of luxury student housing complexes.

“I just think the council…needs to be very concerned that we’re not inadvertently contributing to this luxury student housing bubble,” Mayor Brian Treece said, citing concerns over declining student enrollment and issues filling some existing spaces. “The reality is no one makes money, whether it’s the university with their dormitories or private sector housing, when these facilities are only 80 percent occupied.”

A number of local developers and real estate investors came to the meeting to voice their disapproval for the bill, but only council members Michael Trapp and Laura Nauser voted against it when discussion ended. With limited exception, multi-family development projects without building permits on file as of Monday evening must now be put on hold until early Dec. 1, 2016.

The region the ordinance affects stretches approximately one mile away from University of Missouri campus borders in every direction, extending just past Stephens College in the Northeast and to the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Garden in the Southwest. Construction within MU campus boundaries will not be affected. The ordinance specifically provides an opening councilers described as a “donut hole” for the campus itself where the delay will not apply.

Nathan Lawrence is an editor, documentary filmmaker and data journalist.
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