Downtown buildings get reprieve from demolition

The City Council voted 7-0 to spare
the buildings for
six more months.
Tuesday, November 18, 2003 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 10:29 a.m. CDT, Thursday, June 26, 2008

For at least the next six months, no building in downtown Columbia will be demolished to make room for a parking lot.

The Columbia City Council on Monday night approved 7-0 a moratorium on demolishing buildings within the Special Business District. That ban will last until May 17 to allow the Planning and Zoning Commission time to work with interested downtown parties to create a long-term solution for regulating future development and demolition.

“There are a number of issues that must be decided in connection with an ordinance regulating the demolitions in the downtown area,” City Attorney Fred Boeckmann said in a report to the council.

The issues at hand

Some of the issues that he said need clarification are the standards, conditions and approvals needed for demolition.

The ordinance was sparked by a letter from the Downtown Columbia Associations, which cited the proliferation of vacant lots and parking lots downtown. That trend flies in the face of a desire by city and downtown officials to increase the density of retail and other commercial uses in the district.

Getting the word out

The group also submitted a paper from the National Trust for Historic Preservation that contained sections of ordinances from around the country that address similar problems.

“We’re only recommending a six-month moratorium,” said Carrie Gartner, executive director of the Downtown Columbia Associations. “What we’d like to do is a very thoughtful, long-term solution to this, so we’re going to need time to make that happen. It’s nothing against parking. It’s just, ‘How do we do this intelligently?’”

Gartner cited the parking lots at Seventh Street and Broadway and on Eighth Street between Cherry and Locust streets as sites that used to have buildings. At the meeting, she listed underground parking lots, parking lots behind buildings, and parking

garages with retail spaces on the first floor as possible alternatives to surface lots.

Several council members voiced reservations about the moratorium, including Fifth Ward Councilman John John.

“Every time someone talks about downtown, they talk about the lack of parking,” he said, later adding that, “A lot of businesses need to have parking by them. I’ll let this go for six months, but next time I’ll vote against it.”

The council will have the option of extending the moratorium for another six months in May if a long-term solution has not been reached.

Despite doubts, unanimous support in council

Despite the reservations, the moratorium was passed unanimously.

“I think a lot of communities do exercise some degree of control over parking in downtown,” said Second Ward Councilman Chris Janku. “It might be more of a planned decision in the overall community interest.”

Some demolition exceptions could be granted during the moratorium if property owners show compelling need, financial hardship, or that they intend to build an acceptable replacement. Demolitions that do not affect the concentration of downtown businesses could also be approved.

In other business, the council:

  • Reviewed a report on allowing hunting and fireworks on recently annexed property. Discussion focused on several factors, including tract size and the possibility of allowing property already within city limits to be included in the ordinance.

    Sixth Ward Councilman Brian Ash raised his concerns about the possibility of hunting and shooting fireworks on large properties and spoke out against including land already within city limits in the ordinance.

    “I think the idea is to get more people into the city, not more people shooting on large tracts of land,” he said. Fourth Ward Councilman Jim Loveless disagreed with Ash, stating that hunting within city limits could help curb the exploding population of urban deer.

  • The council asked city staff to draft an initial ordinance and outline how other municipalities throughout the country have dealt with similar problems. The council will review those documents at a future work session.
  • Voted to proceed with preparations for an agreement with the Boone County Regional Sewer District for extending a sewer line to El Chaparral subdivision. Financing for the extension became available when city and county voters on Nov. 4 approved two bond issues that will provide more than $20 million for city and county sewer projects.
  • Missourian reporter Jeff Wells contributed to this report.

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