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Council Approves New East Campus Neighborhood Association

East Campus now has two neighborhood associations.

The Columbia City Council voted 4-2 Monday night to recognize the East Campus Traditional Neighborhood Association as a separate entity from the East Campus Neighborhood Association.

The first is largely comprised of landlords who want their interests better represented in the neighborhood, while the second is a longstanding association made up mostly of homeowners.

Mayor Brian Treece and Third Ward Councilman Karl Skala voted against the resolution to recognize two associations. Sixth Ward Councilwoman Betsy Peters abstained from the vote.

At least an hour-and-a-half of public comments were heard by the council, with over 20 local residents who came to speak on both sides of the issue. Some also offered a more neutral stance — a proposal to table the issue for six months.

Before the vote, First Ward Councilman Clyde Ruffin questioned the efficacy of tabling, saying it would only be worthwhile with the consent of both neighborhood associations and their commitments to resolving their differences.

Fourth Ward Councilman Ian Thomas responded that he didn’t think members of the new association would support tabling the issue.

“I think the ECTNA leaders have tried to do this for about two years, and until quite recently it’s been pretty well rebuffed,” Thomas said. “The recent three to six months, they’ve put a tremendous amount of time and energy into forming this neighborhood association. To me, to table it would be unfair to the efforts that they’ve legitimately taken following their previous experience with the ECNA.”

Fifth Ward Councilman Matt Pitzer agreed with Thomas and strongly opposed tabling the motion, advocating for a final decision one way or the other.

“There’s been a lot of brain damage on this already,” Pitzer quipped, a nod to the long-running dispute and the many public comments.

Second Ward Councilman Mike Trapp cited a diversity of stakeholder viewpoints as an explanation of his support.

“It’s a low bar to enter into neighborhood associations, and I think it’s in the city’s interest to have active and engaged participation,” Trapp said. “I’m a big believer in pluralism.”

Tim Waid, an MU professor and landlord in East Campus, spoke first during public comment and described the neighborhood as “one geography and two ideologies.” He said that the new association’s bylaws do not require members to pay a fee to join or vote and that the group was advocating for student issues, such as lighting and parking.

David Mehr, chairman of original association, opposed the resolution. He said he was speaking as an individual and not on behalf of the association. He said that the new group is basically made up of landlords and that it wouldn’t be any more successful than the old association at attracting student members.

Mehr also said his association had made a number of changes in recent months and grown more transparent as a result. He accused the new organiztion of being divisive and described them as unwilling to discuss their differences until recently.

The East Campus Traditional Neighborhood Association applied in January to be recognized by the city as an official neighborhood association. Monday’s council vote came after the application was tabled during the May 21 meeting, when the council expressed concern over two parts of the original bylaws:

  • A requirement that resident verify they had lived in within the boundaries of the association for at least a year before they are allowed to join.
  • A provision limiting votes to dues-paying members.

The updated bylaws have addressed those concerns and are now in compliance with city policy, according to a council memo.