Policy drafted to preserve Columbia’s historic buildings

Wednesday, June 11, 2008 | 6:24 p.m. CDT; updated 7:32 p.m. CST, Friday, February 19, 2010

COLUMBIA — A proposed city policy that aims to help protect historic buildings from being torn down would add a 10-day waiting period before a demolition permit could be approved.

The policy, drafted by the Columbia Planning and Development Department staff, would require developers to alert the Historic Preservation Commission when they intend to demolish a building or structure. The policy requires 10 workdays’ notice before the Protective Inspections division can issue a demolition permit.

Brian Treece, chairman of the Historic Preservation Commission, said the extra time creates an opportunity for dialogue between developers and the commission.

Treece said the policy is designed to ensure the commission knows when a historic structure is at risk so the commission can contact the property owner to discuss alternatives to demolition. If the owner isn’t receptive to the alternatives, members of commission could document the historic building before it is torn down.

“Ideally what happens is we at least raise awareness to the possibility that the property could be torn down,” he said.

Treece said he thinks most developers would be receptive to alternatives.

“If it makes economic sense to them, they’re going to do it,” he said.

Treece said the commission requested the authority to review demolition permits after a number of instances in which historical properties were threatened with demolition, including the shotgun house located at Garth and Worley Street.

The house, which the commission recognized as one of its first notable properties 10 years ago, was slated to be torn down. Now the city is working with the Boone County Historical Society to come up with a plan to relocate it.

“The only reason we found out about it is because someone thought we should take some pictures of it,” he said.

Don Stamper, executive director of the Central Missouri Development Council, said the policy could violate property rights. He said the city is adding another level of bureaucracy to the development process.

“They never met anything they didn’t want to regulate or control,” he said.

Stamper said he had several specific suggestions for the policy as drafted, but he declined to specify his concerns until he had discussed them with the City Council.

Tim Teddy, city planning and development director, said the city would ask for input on the policy when it’s sent to the City Council for approval, although he didn’t know when that would be. He said the department would present the policy to the Home Builders Association of Columbia at the association’s request.

The commission would not have any authority to halt demolition plans unless the property is located in an official historic district or is a designated city landmark.

“It most cases, it would be an advisory review,” Teddy said. “There wouldn’t really be any regulatory authority.”

Teddy said the commission would create tools to help speed up the process, including maps of historic properties and districts. In time, he said, the 10-day notice could be shortened as new resources make historic properties easier to identify.

“The idea would be as much as possible to try to work within the normal schedule,” Teddy said. “Through time, perhaps we can make the process more efficient.”

Buildings that are considered a public nuisance or a health or safety hazard would be exempt from the policy, as well as properties that were deemed not historically significant by the State Historic Preservation Office or the Missouri Department of Natural Resources. It also wouldn’t apply to interior demolition projects that are part of a renovation.

According to the draft, the city issued 50 demolition permits in the last fiscal year. In the last 10 years, it has issued 31 to 72 permits annually.

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