COLUMBIA — Before any of the commercial development off Stadium Boulevard and along East Pointe Drive appeared, Gerald Evanoski started building his and other homes on land situated near what is now Hollywood Theaters.
A developer told Evanoski in April 1988 about the property.
“So I jumped in his vehicle, came over and looked, and I kind of liked it,” said Evanoski, a building contractor.
Twenty years later, the land Evanoski and others bought includes 49 houses, mainly along Bluff Pointe Drive. And earlier this month, the Columbia City Council passed a resolution formally recognizing the residents’ East Pointe Neighborhood Association. It is one of the newest recognized by the city and brings the total number of neighborhood associations to 68, according to the city’s Web site.
In this established subdivision, the residents are a mixed bag of retirees, working professionals or families with school-age children. Some cross among all three descriptions. Theirs is a story of slow but beautiful growth, seclusion and discovering access to information and issues that warrant another voice.
By his estimate, as he points and counts from his garage, Evanoski has built a dozen of the neighborhood’s houses, including his own.
He holds up three pictures spliced and pieced together on a rectangular piece of cardboard on Saturday afternoon. The pictures were taken by his father, Anthony Evanoski Sr., back in 1988. They’re of Evanoski’s house, taken from across the street, when barely any other houses stood nearby and when there were more dirt clods than trimmed blades of grass.
Evanoski said most subdivisions, especially the big ones, take less than three years to fill up.
“Boom, bam, boom, it’s gone,” he said.
But it wasn’t until 1995 when people really caught wind of the area and began moving in force into the houses here, he said. Even today, many residents characterize the smaller subdivision as a quiet, cut-off-from-the-rest-of-the-world neighborhood.
It’s hard to miss the clean landscaping and three sides of brick gracing every house along Bluff Pointe Drive. The roads are wide, and cars are off the street. On a Wednesday afternoon, no one is outside, save for resident Becky Songer and her son, 4-year-old Braeden, who playfully ventures behind the bushes on their property, smiling at his mother.
“It’s kind of nice, because we have built-in grandmas and grandpas for our kids,” Songer said. “Or I should say some are aunts and uncles.”
Though the neighborhood is closely knit, there didn’t seem to be any reason to form a neighborhood association until recently. Over the past several months, neighborhood associations close to the proposed Crosscreek Center near Stadium Boulevard and U.S. 63 received information from the city related to the development. The residents were able to have debates, make public comment and gather voices of opinion on the issue, all because they knew what was actually taking place.
“There was a lot of pushing and shoving going on about who was moving into that area,” Bluff Pointe resident Clifton Hill said of Crosscreek Center. “And we weren’t told about it.”
That’s because there was no East Pointe neighborhood association. The subdivision has had a property owners association since at least the early 1990s, but some residents never knew the difference between that and a neighborhood association.
A property owners association only allows for the maintenance of common ground areas and enforcing established covenants. Neighborhood associations are far different. Among other benefits, neighborhood associations receive updates from the city’s departments on issues related to their community. For example, if street repairs block an entrance to homes within a neighborhood association, the Public Works Department should contact that neighborhood.
Resident Ron Westhues, chairman of the East Pointe association, said the neighbors have other concerns in addition to the Crosscreek development. The posted speed limit within the subdivision is 30 mph; they’d like to see that reduced to 25 mph. Since the council’s recognition of the residents’ neighborhood association, other issues might surface with a continued flow of information from the city’s departments to the new association.
“Seeing how the neighborhood is already established and the lots are all filled, just to be heard is the main thing,” Hill said.
Hill appreciates the neighborhood for what he calls its cosmetic pride and the friendliness of residents. He has received multiple offers from people wanting to buy his house, but he said he’s refused each and every one of them.
“This house is not for sale,” he said.