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GENE ROBERTSON: Downtown mess should not be par for the course

Monday, May 12, 2014 | 4:12 p.m. CDT

Columbia’s downtown development is akin to a golf ball.

If you slice the golf ball in half you will find layers of compressed rubber strings over a core.

The golf ball is a single-purpose object. The Columbia downtown area has many purposes. When all of these purposes are compressed like the rubber in a golf ball, they become inefficient.

The downtown area is expected to house public and private businesses, residents, pedestrian and vehicular traffic, as well as parking. They are needed services and conveniences.

When these activities are too dense they become inaccessible. They are not layers of rubber inside a golf ball.

The downtown core has to contain an adequate infrastructure. The infrastructure must support all of the activities occurring within it, such as water, sewage, varieties of power and other elements.

Overtaxing the infrastructure because of overdevelopment negatively impacts the daily functions in the downtown area. This impact might not only affect the downtown area but other areas of the city as well.

Imagine such emergencies as fire, power outages and natural disasters on the occupants of an overbuilt, dense area without adequate infrastructure or the ability to modify the infrastructure. Vehicular navigation downtown is already a challenge.

Our representatives rarely hold developers accountable for the snake oil they may be selling. Columbia citizens will be the ones who will face cleaning up the mess, which will become the norm.

It is always easier for decision-makers to say "oops" and avoid much-needed questioning that might lead to legitimate permission. Actions and failure to act have consequences. Citizens are always the ones who suffer the consequences.

What are those responsible for the downtown circus thinking?

University students will be greatly affected by this mess. Where is the university in all this?

Let's not be left holding the bag again.

William E. "Gene" Robertson is a Columbia resident and a professor emeritus at MU. He writes occasional columns for the Missourian.


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