2014-11-21 / News

Columbia City Council approved text amendment, extending benefits for same sex couples

By Josh Cruse

By a vote of 5-1, Columbia City Council approved the first reading of a text amendment permitting private dormitories as part of the C-3 zoning district at their monthly meeting Tuesday, November 18.

Mayor Steve Benjamin, Sam Davis, Cameron Runyan, Tameika Isaac Devine, and Brian Newman voted to approve the amendment; while Moe Baddourah gave the dissenting vote.

The vote came after nearly half an hour of discussion.

Ron Burns, president of Shandon Neighborhood Council:

“Our concerns specifically are the increased traffic that would be generated. We are concerned about areas along Rosewood where there are large C-3 zones we consider to be at risk if this amendment is adopted. We have two schools along Rosewood that serve our neighborhood that already have issues with traffic. We do not like the C-3 amendment as it is proposed.”

Tom Gottshall, president of the University Hill Neighborhood Association:

“We have met with the Peak project people several times and are satisfied they will do a quality, professional project. They have responded to our concerns about traffic and sidewalks. For 35 years, I would have to say that site has been underutilized.”

The text change stems from a proposed student dormitory to be built at the corner of Harden and Gervais Streets. Peak Campus Companies in Atlanta is the developer for the project.

Part of the text amendment calls for a reduction in the buffer requirement, from 600 feet to 300 feet, if an active railroad track, commercial zoning, or an arterial street is present.

Some residents questioned why a special exception couldn’t have been made for this project instead of changing the entire ordinance. Krista Hampton, director of Planning and Development

Services for the City of Columbia, said a special exception can only be granted if it is allowed within the zoning ordinance. Prior to Tuesday’s meeting, private dormitories were not permitted in C-3 zoning; therefore, a special exception would not have been permitted either.

Along with Burns, several Shandon neighborhood residents were in attendance, such as fellow neighborhood council members George Crouch and Caroline Clarkson, to find out the city council’s ruling.

Hampton said there were no locations along Devine Street or Rosewood Drive under consideration for projects if the text amendment passed.

According to Benjamin, the biggest winner would be the school districts, who would receive an estimated $14 million in tax revenue over the next 20 years. The City of Columbia would receive $4 million, while Richland County would receive $5 million.

Prior to the vote, Devine added an amendment, calling for no additional applications to be accepted for private dorms until a new zoning ordinance is developed.

City council made another landmark vote by approving a motion, 4-1, to extend benefits to same sex spouses of city employees. The motion, while not on the city council agenda, was made by Devine.

Tuesday’s vote came after Judge Michelle Childs, with the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals, denied a request by Attorney General Alan Wilson to overturn U.S. District Judge Richard Gergel’s decision the state’s ban on samesex marriage is unconstitutional.

Devine, Benjamin, Baddourah, Newman voted for the motion; while Runyan voted against it.

The next City of Columbia council meeting will be held Tuesday, December 2 at 1737 Main Street, beginning at 6:00 p.m.

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