Petition fails to repeal Columbia's deal with downtown developer

May 5, 2014

columbia city hall
Columbia City Hall
Credit File Photo / KBIA

The Columbia City Clerk announced the petition by Repeal 6214 fell short of the required number of signatures.

Repeal 6214 is a local group formed by Columbia attorney Jeremy Root. They have been working since March to repeal the city's agreement with Opus Development Group to build a downtown housing complex.

In their petition, Repeal 6214 accuses the City Council of rushing the bill through the process.

It reads, "In using a hasty and extraordinary method for consideration and passage of this ordinance…, Council has unreasonably limited or excluded adequate public participation in these decisions and elevated private interests over the interests of the constituents that they have been elected to serve."

Repeals 6124's petition was 91 signatures short of the 3, 209 signatures that are required. It now has until May 15 to submit an amended petition. Root said the group plans to rally support starting this weekend and resubmit the petition with the needed signatures.

But its work may not be needed after Monday's city council meeting.

First Ward Councilmember Ginny Chadwick said she will be presenting a new bill to the City Council that would cancel the city's existing agreement with Opus Group and present a new proposal for the development.

"The people of Columbia really felt like this process was expedited to the point where they didn't get to have their voices heard," Chadwick said.

Chadwick said she understood the many concerns of citizens like the members of Repeal 6214, and these apprehensions would be a top priority for her in future council decisions.

However, Jeremy Root is not as confident in the bill's changes

"The revisions are largely cosmetic to the project," Root said. "While I approve of the idea to submit the project through a normal approval process, I am uncertain that the revisions will address any of the concerns other than process related concerns with this development."

Root said regardless of the Council's decision on Monday, he plans to follow the referendum process to the end.

"It's a fundamental exercise in democracy," Root said. "The citizens have the absolute right to take this action under the city charter. It's a meaningful exercise and it's an important one, and we're committed to placing the views of the citizens on downtown development projects at the center of the discussion."