Historic Preservation Commission proposes alternate Providence Road plan

Thursday, January 31, 2013 | 10:23 p.m. CST; updated 10:31 p.m. CST, Thursday, January 31, 2013
The Historic Preservation Commission held a public hearing Thursday evening to get feedback on its alternative plan for addressing traffic congestion in and around the Grasslands neighborhood. Commission members believe that a private alley connecting streets in the neighborhood is a better idea than full-scale streets that would require the demolition of eight homes.

COLUMBIA – Dozens of neighbors voiced their opposition to the Providence Road construction plan at a public hearing Thursday evening. The Columbia Historic Preservation Commission offered an alternative plan that would build an alley instead of two roads.

The original two-phase plan, intended to alleviate traffic on Providence Road and in the Grasslands neighborhood, would include the destruction of eight homes to build new roads between Brandon and Bingham roads and Bingham and Burnam roads.

The right-hand turn lane on Providence Road to Stadium Boulevard would also be extended and traffic lights would be added at the corners of Providence Road and Burnam Road and Providence Road and Turner Avenue. The exits from Bingham and Brandon roads on to Providence Road would be closed off. 

The Columbia City Council passed the first phase of the plan Nov. 19. The second phase, in which six of the eight homes would be demolished, is not yet on the council agenda. The project would cost a total of $6.6 million.

Many residents at the hearing spoke about the project's fiscal costs and detriment to the community.

Mark Jones, a Fifth Ward council candidate, condemned the demolition of the homes. 

"It's outside the character of our town," he said Thursday night. "We create things here. To have the historic homes, the gateway of our community, knocked down is against that character."   

Grasslands resident Hugo Vianello said the plan is unnecessarily complex. 

"I'm a simple man and I like simple solutions," he said. "If I were spending my own money on this ... I would put lights at every single intersection." 

Brian Treece, a member of the Historic Preservation Commission who lives in the Grasslands neighborhood, said the plan needed to be discussed further.

"It is my intent to have a fair public hearing on this plan," he said. 

The commission, Treece said, had reviewed all public records and emails regarding the project through a Sunshine request, and found that the city had actively worked to stop dialogue between opposing stakeholders to more easily get plans approved. 

“In my world, keeping people with different opinions apart from each other doesn't always have the greatest result,” he said. “The failure of this level of dialogue has created a lot of mistrust.”   

At the public hearing, the commission presented several alternate plans. The one it will recommend to the council would include the construction of a private alley between Bingham and Brandon roads that could save the homes. 

This alternative would cost less, preserve all homes and access points to Providence Road and allow the collegiate feel of the neighborhood to flourish, Treece said. The alley would be 16 feet wide rather than 32 feet for a road. 

The plan, Treece said, would allow the Grasslands residents whose homes face Providence to exit their homes safer and easier, with new driveways leading to the alley rather than Providence. All exits from the Grasslands onto Providence would stay open, allowing greater access for residents and emergency vehicles, he said.

Some neighborhood residents were unhappy with the commission's alternative. The plan does not include a definitive intersection for a traffic light to be added, which is one of the main concerns of the neighborhood, said John Ott, a Grasslands Neighborhood Association board member.

Angela Speck has lived in the Grasslands for more than two years. She criticized a Photoshopped picture the commission created that showed what Providence Road would look like without the homes. 

“That's just disingenuous," she said. "You have an agenda and you're putting it forward.”

She also talked about the residents' need for a traffic light.

“I have small kids who in five, ten years' time are going to learn how to drive," she said. "I want a traffic light. I don't know how your solution helps us.”  

Treece said that saving the homes and ensuring public safety are the main concerns of the commission, and that they believe their alternate solution will address those issues.

The commission will present its alternate proposals to the council Feb. 18.

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Glenn Rice February 1, 2013 | 8:52 a.m.

Angela Speck, of course they have an agenda and are putting it forward! Do you really not know what the HISTORIC PRESERVATION Commission does? How is it "disingenuous" to argue in support of what they've been commissioned to do?

(Report Comment)
alan woodson February 1, 2013 | 9:21 a.m.

I have looked at the map of the Grasslands and I agree.
Build an alley behind the houses for access and close off the driveways on Providence. Close off access to Bingham and Brandon and everyone can navigate through the neighborhood to Burnam. It seems that the improvements to Providence could still be done.

(Report Comment)
John Schultz February 1, 2013 | 3:59 p.m.

Lengthen the right turn land to Brandon, paying for a house's or two's front yard. Block left turns out of any non-signalized intersections. Put one light one a major road out of the Grasslands. Boom, problem solved for a lot less than 7 million sawbucks.

(Report Comment)
Mike Martin February 1, 2013 | 4:12 p.m.

Meeting last night was best example of publicly-engaging government dialog I think I've ever seen in CoMo. It was also the most packed meeting I've ever seen in the new City Hall chambers, with a line out the door.

(Report Comment)
Bill Weitkemper February 1, 2013 | 4:47 p.m.

Brian Treece did an excellent job. He should be setting in one of the seats on the first and third Monday nights at 7:00.

(Report Comment)
Angela Speck February 1, 2013 | 8:45 p.m.

I love it when my comments are taken out of context. The disingenuousness was to do with how both the council-approved plan and their "alternative" plan were presented. I am not a huge fan of destroying any homes (historic or not), but what played out in the chamber smacked of a witchhunt. The poor Works engineer Scott Bitterman was harshly interrogated. The way in which questions were asked suggested that the Commission members believed there was a nefarious plot underway and they were going to seek out the guilty parties. I honestly don't know if there is such a plot, but if you want me to buy your story, then don't fill your "alternative proposal" with obvious bulls**t that makes me believe you are the one with the nefarious plot. I think the only person who spoke with poise and made a good point was Laura Kreisman, who wanted to get MODoT in the hot seat. And why is it that I'm the only person quoted. I was the first person to speak and nearly everyone who came after me was more eloquent and made better points.

(Report Comment)

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