COLUMBIA – Council candidates think relatively highly of neighborhood associations, but their thoughts on how the associations' roles should play out aren’t necessarily congruent.
With much criticism raised over the Crosscreek Center development even after the developers went through a lengthy stint of negotiating with the city, City Council candidates aren’t hesitant to say that they will work with neighborhood associations in an effort to quell dissatisfaction within the community.
Sixth Ward candidate Barbara Hoppe said that neighborhood associations should play a large role in development decisions.
“I think that all development will work when we make sure it works for the business, the neighbors and the community at large,” Hoppe said. “The big thing is educating people so they can get information when developments are proposed.”
Hoppe said that the Crosscreek development was the “poster child for what we don’t want the development process to be.” She has said that she works to create win-win situations — not an outcome where each party must sacrifice something — as a council member and felt that Crosscreek, which was initially proposed before she was on the council, was a “C” grade project.
Her opponent, Rod Robison, also said that neighborhood associations should play an important role in the city and thinks that they are a great way for council members to communicate with their constituents. He also said, however, that neighborhood associations aren’t always representative of entire neighborhoods.
“You have to be a little bit aware that the people running their neighborhood association don’t represent everyone,” Robison said. He used the Crosscreek development as an example, saying that his neighborhood association, Shepard Boulevard, was one of the last to hold out but when the neighborhood took a vote they decided to come to an agreement with the developer.
Robison said that a good way to avoid problems and boost the influence of neighborhood associations was to get more residents involved.
Second Ward candidates Jason Thornhill and Alan Sharrock both viewed neighborhood associations as playing important roles in the community, but they expressed different views on how they play that role.
"If you don't know what's happening, and you don't participate, you shouldn't complain about what's going on," Thornhill said.
He said he has worked with neighborhood associations a lot through his work as a real estate agent and would work with them more to avoid problems such as Crosscreek, but he feels that there is some responsibility for associations to remain informed.
Thornhill also said that he would like to see promotion of neighborhood watch programs working in conjunction with neighborhood associations.
Sharrock said he would plan on being very accessible to neighborhood associations and that he has already attended meetings throughout the Second Ward.
"The neighborhood associations are in the driver's seat," Sharrock said. "If they want to work through me they can, or they can appeal directly to the council."
Both Thornhill and Sharrock feel that developers need to communicate with neighborhood associations early in the process.
"The north side is of course concerned about development and what it's going to look like," Sharrock said. "Developers need to be in touch with neighbors, customers."
Thornhill said the city's planning and zoning practices lack a clearly defined approval process that provides ample opportunity for all parties to communicate. He believes most of the differences between developers and neighbors can be worked out if they spend enough time talking about them ahead of time.*
As a group, all the council candidates said that communication is the key to avoiding problems.
Missourian reporter Andrew Van Dam contributed to this report.