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Columbia councilman: city management lacks communication

Third Ward Councilman Karl Skala says city management hasn’t been communicating with the council or the public about downtown development.

“It was wrong for me to learn about this freeze on downtown development in the newspaper,” Skala told ABC 17 News. “That’s the kind of information we should have been talking about way ahead of time.”

To stop the freeze, three developers are offering to pay for a part of downtown Columbia’s infrastructure upgrades if it means they can build student apartments.

City Manager Mike Matthes announced the freeze in December, saying downtown needed $70 million in upgrades and asked for a tax increment financing district to pay for it.

Ahead of a big vote on the projects, Skala said communication has been slow, but the process has been fast. And it raises a bigger issue.

“My next issue is going to be this communications failure between the city staff and the city council, the public and development community,” Skala said.

Opposition has been loud to more housing downtown because of the other issues that come along with the projects, like parking and providing bus passes.

Skala said after this week, he plans to address all city leaders about how he thinks proposals should be handled from here on out.

“I think we really need to re-evaluate proposals and how we should do that together and how we should do that early in the process so there isn’t this lack of communication that can get us into the kind of trouble we’re in now,” he said.

The public will be able to make comments and give their input on the proposals. Then, the council will discuss the three options more at a Wednesday meeting.

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