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THE UNDERMINER, Part 2: More Columbia laws broken in eminent domain push, report says

Not interested in "interested parties" ; public preferred Turner-to-Clarkson alternative
 
COLUMBIA, 2/21/13 (Beat Byte) -- Columbia public works director John Glascock knowingly violated a city ordinance requiring so-called "interested party" or IP meetings to review major roadwork plans, a report from the city's Historic Preservation Commission (HPC) has found.
 
Instead, Glascock quietly tossed out a publicly-preferred option from April 2010 in favor of the Phase 1/Phase 2 Providence Improvement Project (PIP). That plan, which Glascock helped design, requires demolition of eight stately and historic homes on Providence Road near the Grasslands.
 
It also calls for condemnation -- eminent domain -- should purchase negotiations fail.
 
The public works director ignored Council directives, concerns from his subordinate staff, and City Charter prohibitions against meeting with City Council members one-on-one, the 110-page HPC report details.
 
Turner to Clarkson

Per sections 22-46 and 22-71 of the Columbia Code of Ordinances, "an interested parties meeting and a Public Hearing are needed before plans can be drawn up for construction," public works traffic engineering supervisor Scott Bitterman emailed Patricia Riebold, a Providence Road homeowner, in March 2010. "We are actively finalizing exhibits for the interested parties meeting in April. Once we gather input at the interested parties meeting, a Public Hearing before City Council is held where the preferred option for design is discussed."
 
At an April 2010 IP meeting, city staff presented five road construction alternatives, including new traffic signals on Burnam St. in the Grasslands and new connector streets. At that meeting, a public preference emerged for the Turner to Clarkson alternative, a $2.8 million road connector plan.
 
A Feb. 23, 2011 letter from the City of Columbia and MoDOT to then-Grasslands Neighborhood Association president John Ott stated that "input from the April 2010 IP meeting showed the preferred option was for the Turner to Clarkson alternative," the HPC report explains. Ott even "hired a consultant to develop a traffic model based on the Turner to Clarkson alternative."
 
But for reasons that are not clear, the Turner to Clarkson alternative was never presented for a full Public Hearing -- the next step after the more narrowly focused IP meeting -- and instead, quietly died.
 
In its place emerged the Phase 1/Phase 2 plan.
 
Just the two of us
 
Initially, Phase 1/Phase 2 was on target for all the legally-required meetings, as Councilwoman Helen Anthony emailed Grasslands Neighborhood Association Robbie Price on Oct. 5, 2012.
 
"We will meet with the Mayor and probably Barbara Hoppe before our council meeting on October 15th to address any of their concerns," Anthony explained. "If all goes well, we can take the next step which is an Interested Parties Meeting."
 
She said the same thing three days later in a Columbia Missourian story. "The next step is to gather representatives of all these groups for an 'interested party meeting,'" she told the Missourian October 8.

That same day, City of Columbia assistant director of public works David Nichols emailed Bitterman with a link to the Missourian. "According to the article, Ms. Anthony says our next step is an 'Interested Parties Meeting,'" he wrote.
 
Nichols then asked Glascock what to do next. "Do we plan another IP meeting or are you going to discuss with Ms. Anthony?"
 
Glascock decided against the IP meeting. "No," he told Nichols. The only meeting he planned would involve "just me and her [Anthony]."
 
"The Interested Parties meeting as required under the City of Columbia’s Code Ordinance for Phase 1 and Phase 2 of the new Providence Road plan was never held," the HPC report explains. Instead, Glascock bypassed the IP meeting requirement and announced an unauthorized public hearing -- the last step in the approval process -- a few weeks later.
 
NEXT: Lawsuit worries
 
HPC Report:
 
 
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