COLUMBIA, 4/4/13 (Op Ed) --
An ongoing and testy issue during this year's City Council campaigns, student housing sprawl is a bad deal for any community, but especially for neighbors sold one bill of goods only to get something completely different.
People originally envisioned plenty of owner-occupied living in downtown Columbia, and a diverse population of seniors, young professionals, hipsters, and families with children.
What Columbia got instead was more rental housing with no thought of the infrastructure -- parking, streets, storm water, etc. -- required to support it. Worse yet, if history repeats, in 10 years or so all this downtown student rental housing will slum out. Just look at the north and south Columbia duplexvilles built for students, some less than a decade ago.
The other argument is with Columbia's nutty, open-ended zoning laws. They usually go like this: "Buy land zoned one way, rezone, build something completely inappropriate with help from bully-attorney, and a City Council with no plan."
About the Odlesaurus Apartments on College and Walnut, "the tract is zoned R-3, which would permit the developers to construct as many as 40 units
," the Trib reported
. "The developers want to change the zoning to C-2
, central business district zoning, to build an L-shaped structure containing 100 apartments, 5,000 square feet of retail space and 200 parking spaces."
Plus, it turns out, a baby Garagezilla.
Ironically, the same argument Niedermeyer owner Fred Hinshaw used to oppose a moratorium on downtown demolitions is also the same argument neighbors around these student apartments have used to oppose them, but with no success.
Just like Mr. Hinshaw didn't sign up for the moratorium, these neighbors didn't sign up for rezoning.
And not just minor rezoning, but major rezoning that allows hundreds of over-priced but poorly-built apartments to rise next door to single family, owner-occupied homes, with no street setbacks so they stand out like overbearing shoulders, butting everything around.
Columbia's fate is now cast in faux stone. If history is any guide, that fate may not be a happy one.
-- Mike Martin for the Columbia Heart Beat