COLUMBIA – After an hour of opposing and disparate comments from Grasslands Neighborhood residents, the Columbia City Council voted 5-2 on Monday night to rescind the Providence Road/Grasslands project.
The two-phase plan, intended to alleviate traffic in the Grasslands Neighborhood and on Providence Road, would have cost $6.6 million. The project included the addition of two feeder roads in the Grasslands Neighborhood that would have required the demolition of eight homes.
The council passed the first phase of the plan in November, after nearly 10 years of discussions between city staff members and interested parties.
Mayor Bob McDavid said he voted to rescind the project because of the significant cost and the nature of that vote.
"I believe the process that led to (the) Nov. 19 resolution was flawed," he said.
He and many of the other council members who voted to rescind supported a new plan presented by the Public Works Department that combines several alternative plans and council preferences.
Called "Option 8a," the plan would include changes to Birch Road and the addition of sidewalks on Brandon Road. Traffic signals would be installed at the corners of Providence Road and Turner Avenue and Providence Road and Burnam Road. The plan has an estimated cost of $2.1 million.
Bruce Beckett, a Grasslands property owner, agreed that Option 8a would solve the issues of costs to the city and aesthetic costs to the neighborhood.
"It's a good alternative to save demolition of eight houses," he said. "It's going to save you an enormous amount of money. It's going to loosen up funds and makes the best use of city money to address the problems we need to address in this area."
Grasslands resident Richard Burns spoke in support of the rescinded plan on behalf of his mother, Joan Burns, whose property would be affected by the addition of a right-turn lane included in the current plan.
Despite that the city would have to acquire some of her property in order to widen Providence Road, Richard Burns said his mother feels that it is necessary for traffic concerns. The issue, he said, will not go away by ignoring it.
"Here we are, and we have to deal with it," he said.
Several council members cited the destruction of the eight homes as a reason for rescinding the plan. A recent letter from the Missouri Department of Natural Resources stated that if the houses were found to have historic value, the city could lose federal funding slated for use on the project.
Second Ward Councilman Michael Trapp agreed that the homes need not be demolished in order to solve the traffic issues in the area.
"In addition to the cost in dollars, it's expensive in the cost to the street scape," he said. "I believe the same solutions can be met with Option 8a."
Sixth Ward Councilwoman Barbara Hoppe voted against rescinding the November vote.
The city has no obligation to the houses, currently rentals, she said, adding that she believes the houses might be demolished by the private owners anyway. The city should not rescind the plan in favor of one that is disliked by Grasslands residents, she said.
"I think the neighborhood was very consistent that Birch was not an acceptable option," she said. "The Birch option not only will affect the driving patterns of the neighborhood but will take substantial amount of property away from the homes on Birch."
The council will hold another public hearing on the project at its regularly scheduled meeting on June 3. The only plans discussed will be the recently rescinded one, Option 8a and the "do nothing" option in which only a right-turn lane is added to Brandon Road.
The Historic Preservation Commission has proposed a private alley connecting streets in the neighborhood rather than full-scale streets that would require the demolition of eight homes. The red lines mark the city's proposal that was rescinded Monday night. (This map shows houses that would have been torn down under the proposal initially approved by the City Council and not other structures in the neighborhood.) CHRISTINA TRESTER/Missourian