Downtown Columbia Leadership Council votes to support demolition moratorium

Tuesday, January 15, 2013 | 8:58 p.m. CST; updated 3:08 p.m. CST, Wednesday, January 16, 2013

*This story has been updated to reflect that Downtown Leadership Council member Deb Sheals opposes a moratorium on demolition permits downtown.

COLUMBIA — Two downtown-focused committees are at odds over a moratorium bill.

Days after the Downtown Community Improvement District voiced its adamant opposition, the Downtown Columbia Leadership Council voted Tuesday to support City Council Bill 375-12, which would place a moratorium on the issuance of demolition permits to downtown property owners. Two leadership council members — Bob Hutton and Gary Ward — opposed the motion. Member Deb Sheals notified the city on Wednesday that she mistakenly voted in favor of the motion that she intended to oppose. City officials have amended the record to reflect her opposition.*

The moratorium bill was tabled Jan. 7 after Third Ward Councilman Gary Kespohl requested input from the pair of entities responsible for oversight of the downtown area. Kespohl was in attendance Tuesday.

While the moratorium does not specifically mention the Niedermeyer building, the owner of the Niedermeyer, Fred Hinshaw, and the developer wanting to build on the property, Collegiate Housing Partners, have threatened to file lawsuits against the city if the bill passes.

No limits with C-2 zoning

Although the Downtown Columbia Leadership Council supports the bill and the Downtown Community Improvement District opposes the bill, the two entities did agree on one point: C-2 zoning must be revised.

Where other designations limit use of a property, C-2 permits anything from shops to restaurants to high-rise apartments. That it also does not limit building height or setback gave some council members pause.

"C-2 isn’t necessarily ‘one-size-fits-all’ for downtown," said Rosie Gerding, a member of the leadership council.

The rapid proliferation of student housing has also exacerbated existing issues downtown, such as parking and infrastructure. With several multistory projects under way, council members concluded that putting the revision off is no longer an option.

With change on the horizon, though, council Chairman Brent Gardner worries downtown property owners might "jump the gun" and make major changes before new regulations go into effect. To proceed with revision without a temporary halt in development, he reasoned, would be dangerous.

A timeline for changes

But while a majority of its members agreed that a moratorium should be established, the council remained divided in its feelings toward the duration of the halt.

"I think a six-month moratorium is nothing," Gerting said, suggesting little progress could be made in such a short span of time.

Deb Sheals, Downtown Community Improvement District liaison to the Downtown Columbia Leadership Council, argued the opposite. A closer deadline, she said, would put pressure on city officials to get something done.

The City Council will vote on the moratorium bill at its regular meeting Tuesday.

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S.W. Moore January 15, 2013 | 11:24 p.m.

Ridiculous. The Niedermeyer building is a decrepit flophouse suitable for a Kansas dustbowl town. Who in this day and age tries to thwart housing in a downtown?!??! Are these suburban sprawl lovers who like paying for extending city infrastructure for new tract homes and cinder block strip malls?!!?? Seriously. Inane. Columbia, like any growing city, needs a strong downtown to thrive. A huge component of that is getting more and more people to live, work and play downtown. So it seems the noisy, obstructionist few have managed to waste everyone's time and curb a property owners rights. Who are these people trying to force a property owner to do their bidding? Based on these bleeding heart stories in the Missourian the past few weeks, they are seemingly led by a few lazy renters of Neidermeyer Apts. who think they own the place and will no doubt be gone from Columbia once their financial aid runs out; a history grad student grasping at straws tying to manufacture some historical significance to a building without one except that it's old (and Columbia needs another museum like it needs another Taco Bell, sweetie); delusional malcontents who simply don;t like growth or tall buildings, self-appointed "historical preservationists" looking to pad their egos; anti-student curmudgeons (seriously, THEY have a voice in a college town?!?!); competing developers of those cheap apartments off Rock Quarry, Nifong and Providence; and, a handful of other nubs. Again, ridiculous. I hope the developer sues big. Columbia needs taller buildings, too. Paquin tower, built 40+ years ago, is godawful. The giant brick wall of the old GTE building on Cherry, the MU power plant, etc. -- those should not be the anchors of a dynamic growing city. Higher density (with taller buildings) is better for the environment (less urban sprawl), for taxpayers (again, less $$$ for extending city infrastructure, for economic prosperity and a thriving downtown, and even for safety (less students driving drunk from southern Columbia to downtown bars). The architecturally ramshackle Neidermeyer building is not a cause anyone should be fighting for, let alone people citing historical/architectural significance or aesthetics. It's a dump. Stop this obstructionist nonsense. Demolish the old firetrap and build some high-rises. Columbia simply needs to get it up.

(Report Comment)
Cole Kennedy January 16, 2013 | 10:41 a.m.

I endorse almost everything S.W. Moore said above.

C-2 zoning sounds perfect - the more laws restrict scaling and purpose, the more homogenous downtown becomes. The only zoning restrictions I want to see, are restrictions that prevent developers from building surface parking.

(Report Comment)
Michael Williams January 16, 2013 | 11:05 a.m.

I agree with the above posters.

Hell, Bartlesville, OK (google it, and select "images"), a small city of 35,000, has a better skyline than us!

All we have is the crummy garagezilla, Paquin Towers, and Tiger Hotel.

Our universities are nice, tho.

(Report Comment)

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