Thomas, Skala insist citizen-driven plans will no longer be ignored

COLUMBIA, Mo 10/22/13 (Beat Byte) -- Constitutional rights and citizen-driven planning were big winners at last night's Columbia City Council meeting, as Council members rejected a high-profile development and rewrote a city law many say violated the Fourth Amendment.

Council members struck down provisions of a so-called Occupancy Disclosure Ordinance requiring rental property owners and managers to turn over "all lease, rental payment, and tenant information" to any city inspector or police officer requesting it.  

The city ordinance, critics argued, invited both landlord and tenant lawsuits.  The 4th Amendment of the US Constitution guarantees that searches of "persons and papers" be conducted only with a court-ordered warrant.

The occupancy ordinance also violated a different city law requiring court-ordered warrants for searches, and Federal laws restricting disclosure of confidential credit reports tenants provide with their applications.

The loudest proponent of liberty, 5th Ward Councilman Laura Nauser, voted against the proposed rewrite because she felt it did not go far enough toward protecting landlord and tenant rights.  City manager Mike Matthes pushed back, insisting city inspectors needed the additional powers to expedite efficient enforcement of rental property codes.

"It would certainly expedite law enforcement's ability to do investigations if we did away with warrants, too," Nauser fired back.   "We should not support the argument that efficiency necessitates taking away freedoms."
Citizen-driven planning, meanwhile, may have received its biggest boost ever when Council members voted 6-1 to reject CVS Pharmacy's plan to rezone a corner of Providence and Broadway.

Council members Ian Thomas and Karl Skala made clear they would no longer relegate plans such as Visioning, Metro 20/20, and the downtown planning Charrette to a dust-gathering shelf.
"When I was campaigning this spring, I heard over and over again that we invest all this volunteer time and energy from the community into developing community plans, and that it very often seems these plans are completely ignored," said 4th Ward Councilman Ian Thomas, who held up the 2010 Charrette.
"Here is the Charrette report," Thomas continued. "Pages 26 and 27 talk about a vision for that exact corner, which is in stark contrast to many key elements of the CVS proposal."

The CVS proposal included what many said was a cookie-cutter building more suited to a bland suburb than to a Midwestern downtown struggling to preserve its heritage.  Even CVS' own representatives -- Columbia attorney Robert Hollis and two engineers -- seemed bored, stumbling through lackluster, hard-to-follow presentations.
The nearly 90-minute hearing included six community members, all of whom opposed the plan.  Downtown Leadership Council Chair Brent Gardner panned it for ignoring an important fact:  the Providence and Broadway intersection is a "vital" gateway into the city.  

"It is a critical corner," agreed Mr. Skala, who represents the Third Ward.
Only 5th Ward Councilwoman Laura Nauser voted to approve the plan, in keeping with her general support of strong property rights.