Sunday, November 20, 2011

CITY COUNCIL: Police review, Regency rezone on tap for jam-packed meeting

COLUMBIA, 11/20/11 (Beat Byte) -- You know a Monday night Columbia City Council meeting will be busy when the first item of business -- public comment -- kicks off with controversy. Speaker Spencer Vyrosteh will address the Council about "turning on the power to the outside outlets at City Hall," an issue that hit the fan last week over reports public works officials cut the power, viewed by many as part of an effort to shoo away those pesky "Occupy" protestors.

Other controversial business will include Council bills B264-11 and B265-11, rezoning the run-down Regency Mobile Home Park to accommodate a student housing complex from Aspen Heights development. This week the developer offered money to nearly everybody, a move that felt like sleazy vote buying when Aspen asked students to support the rezoning for $500. Petition signatures have flooded in opposing the rezoning, and environmental groups like the Sierra Club continue to have serious questions about sewage, storm water, rubbish, and other hazards that have accumulated on the long-neglected site over the years.

Two items on the automatically-approved Consent Agenda involve that team you either love or loathe -- the Columbia Police. B318-11 amends rules governing the Citizens Police Review Board, including the definition of "police misconduct" and closed meetings. B319-11 authorizes an outside firm -- Evidence Control Systems -- to organize the property and evidence room (naturally, it takes an outside consultant to do this -- for $20,000).

Local architects Peckham and Wright continue their ironic rise to the top floors of the city's parking garage empire, with R206-1, which hires the firm to do planning, design and construction management of commercial space in Garagezilla for roughly $16,000. Peckham is also on tap to lease and build space in Villa-zilla, Garagezilla's offspring on Short and Walnut streets in the North Central Village.
 
Why "ironic?" If one citizen were voted "least likely to ever be involved in such an oversized, overpriced, non-green series of projects," that person would probably be Peckham and Wright principal and founder Nick Peckham, who designed and built Grant Elementary's Eco Schoolhouse and is a leader in city-wide efforts to reduce carbon foot-printing. 
 
Other potentially-controversial items will get their First Reading (meaning no immediate Council action) at Monday's meeting, including a plan for City Hall to spend $681,000 on 30 acres -- $21,000/acre -- for a park near the new Battle High School. The beneficiaries of this taxpayer-funded government largesse: local iconic conservatives Tom Atkins, Scott Atkins, Bob Pugh, and builder Rob Wolverton.

CITY COUNCIL AGENDA FOR MONDAY, NOV. 21, 2011

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