City Council postpones vote on six-month abeyance for downtown demolition permits

Monday, January 7, 2013 | 11:26 p.m. CST; updated 3:47 p.m. CST, Monday, January 14, 2013

COLUMBIA — Faced with the threat of a lawsuit, City Council postponed voting on an ordinance that would suspend for six months all demolitions downtown.

The ordinance will be voted on at a meeting to be held in two weeks, Mayor Bob McDavid said.

Gary Kespohl, Third Ward Council member, proposed to postpone the vote. Council members voted unanimously for the postponement. 

The abeyance would affect the sale and demolition of the Niedermeyer apartment building, considered the oldest standing building in Columbia. An application for a demolition permit for the Niedermeyer building was submitted Dec. 13.

Before the council's vote, McDavid read two letters from lawyers opposing the abeyance.

The first letter came from Wally Bley, attorney of Fred Hinshaw, who is the managing member of Niedermeyer L.C. The attorney objected to the ordinance, saying it was triggered by the permit application to demolish the Niedermeyer building.

The second letter was from Robert Hollis of Van Matre, Harrison, Hollis, Taylor  and Bacon, P.C., a law firm representing the Collegiate Housing Partners, the entity that plans to purchase the Niedermeyer building.

Hollis wrote in the letter that the Collegiate Housing Partners would have no alternative but to sue the city if the abeyance was enacted. He said the ordinance violates the Missouri Constitution if its purpose is to stop the proposed transaction between Niedermeyer's current owner and the Collegiate Housing Partners. 

McDavid asked Hollis, who attended the meeting, if Collegiate Housing Partners would sue if the council postponed the vote for two weeks. Hollis said no.

The abeyance was proposed at the Dec. 17 council meeting by Barbara Hoppe, Sixth Ward Council member. 

One of the reasons why Hoppe requested the abeyance was the significant residential development in the downtown area in the past few years. Other reasons include concerns about adequate parking, building height and placement, and historic preservation.

Hoppe said at the meeting Monday night that the abeyance was not just about the Niedermeyer property but about the downtown in general. She said there is a push for development downtown and the council does not have time to wait for ordinances to be put in place.

City Manager Mike Matthes said city staff rejected the application for the demolition of the Niedermeyer building because it would still be occupied by tenants and utilities would still be on. 

The council also voted on and passed an amendment to Chapter 6 of the City Code related to the Historic Preservation Commission and demolition permits.

Before the amendment, the Historic Preservation Commission had 10 working days to review a demolition permit. Now the commission has 30 calendar days for a review.

"This is a minor, fundamental change that helps the Historic Preservation Commission do their job in a sufficient way," Hoppe said.

Supervising editor is Simina Mistreanu.

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