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DANGEROUS CONFUSION: City administrators misunderstood scope of Providence Rd. hearing

Push to approve demolition of eight historic homes gets muddled
COLUMBIA, Mo 6/3/13 (Beat Byte) -- City administrators either misunderstood the scope of a November 19, 2012 public hearing on a plan to widen Providence Road, or misled the public about their intentions, emails obtained by the Columbia Heart Beat have revealed.

The City Council meets tonight to reconsider the same plan, now known as Option IX.   The plan would invoke eminent domain, so clarity about its scope is critical. 

The emails indicate public works director John Glascock thought he would get permission for a 2-phase, nearly $7 million project to demolish 8 historic homes and build over a small vacant lot on Providence abutting the Grasslands neighborhood.  
The Nov. 19 public hearing, however, covered Phase 1 only, which required demolition of two historic houses -- 903 and 905 S. Providence -- at a cost of roughly $3.2 million.  Council approved that plan but rescinded it in April.

"Dear John: I wanted to check with you on the wording of the proposed Council Resolution," Grasslands Neighborhood Association president Robbie Price, a chief proponent of the 2-phase approach, emailed Glascock Nov. 14.  "There is mention of Phase 1 construction costs but not a word about Phase 2."
Glascock blamed the wording on the city's legal department and then said something surprising.
"The public hearing is for the entire project (phase 1 and phase 2)," Glascock responded, cc'ing fellow proponent John Ott and then-5th Ward Councilwoman Helen Anthony.  "I hope council directs to proceed with the entire project."

Five days later, Glascock changed his story on questioning from Mayor Bob McDavid at the hearing.
"Mayor McDavid commented that an affirmative vote tonight would fund Phase 1 and set the stage for another public hearing in the future to fund Phase 2," meeting minutes read.   "Mr. Glascock stated that was correct" and further that the City "had not yet discussed Phase 2 with MoDOT."  Providence is a state highway, and MoDOT must approve any plans.
McDavid further said he "did not believe this Council could promise Phase 2 over any period of time."   Nonetheless, much of the discussion centered on how to approve the second phase. 
"Ms. Anthony asked if it was possible to conceptually approve Phase 2."   City attorney Fred Boeckmann replied Council members could "let their intentions be known," but they "could not commit the City irrevocably since there needed to be a separate public hearing on Phase 2."

When First Ward Councilman Fred Schmidt pressed the issue further, city manager Mike Matthes said Phase 2  "would still require another action by the Council in the future to proceed."

Three weeks later, Glascock and his staff were pricing Phase 2 properties.    In an email conversation entitled "Homes on Providence from Burnam to Brandon" -- which covers both phases -- city property acquisitions manager Wendy Lister revealed her sister owned a Phase 2 home until earlier that year.

"John:  The home at 927 S. Providence is listed for $289,000 with an appraisal in early summer of $270,000," Lister emailed Glascock Dec. 7.   "My sister, as a member of Show Me Properties, LLC, owned 915 S. Providence.  She indicated that it sold for $270,000 in May 2012....Razing runs around $30,000 and asbestos abatement $7,000.  These houses are larger than the homes we've razed in the past....Is this enough information?"

Glascock responded a few days later, cc'ing staff members David Nichols, Scott Bitterman, and Matt Gerike.
"Proceed after the Ward 5 election," he told Lister.   Laura Nauser won that election this February. 


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