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Council candidates weigh in on the roles of neighborhood associations

Monday, March 23, 2009 | 11:00 a.m. CDT; updated 9:46 a.m. CDT, Thursday, March 26, 2009

This story has been modified to correct Second Ward candidate Jason Thornhill's stance on the need for communication between developers and neighborhood associations.

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.


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Comments

Meredith Donaldson March 25, 2009 | 2:38 p.m.

Rob Robison said, "You have to be a little bit aware that the people running their neighborhood association don’t represent everyone...and that a good way to avoid problems and boost the influence of neighborhood associations was to get more residents involved." He might lead by example and get involved in his neighborhood association. I have not seen him as an active participant in our neighborhood association addressing any of the issues affecting our neighborhood. Being active in neighborhood associations and participating in the city's visioning process are primary to anyone running for City Council -- Barbara Hoppe has!

(Report Comment)
Ray Shapiro March 25, 2009 | 3:01 p.m.

(from the Missourian): Unlike Thornhill, Sharrock felt that developers need to communicate with neighborhood associations early on in the process.
(from the Trib): As a one-sixth owner of Weichert, Realtors — First Tier, Thornhill said he is primed to reach consensus decisions and work with other people to find solutions.
..........................................................
I'm confused. Unless realtors are more concerned about the developers' interests than the concerns of neighborhood associations.

(Report Comment)
Jason Thornhill March 25, 2009 | 10:43 p.m.

While I've enjoyed visiting with Andrew over the course of my campaign, I'm disturbed by the fact that this article was not checked for accuracy.

At no point have I ever suggested that developers should not need to communicate with neighborhoods early in the process. To the contrary, I've been a proponent of increased communication and even gone so far as to say if everyone had spent enough time talking about their concerns prior to a development getting under way, most if not all of those issues could have been worked out.

I think our P&Z process is actually lacking in providing a clearly defined approval process that includes ample opportunity for communication for all parties involved.

Jason Thornhill
Candidate for 2nd Ward City Council Seat
JThornhill@WeichertFT.com
573-424-1324

(Report Comment)
Ray Shapiro March 25, 2009 | 10:58 p.m.

Thank you for the clarification, Mr. Thornhill. I am now less confused.

(Report Comment)

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