Groups ask council to rethink Providence Road plans

The Columbia Historic Preservation Commission recommended an alternative to the transportation project.
City Council members listen to a Columbia resident during a public comment session at Monday night's meeting. Residents attended the meeting to speak out about the current Phase 1 plan of the Providence Road project that includes the acquisition and removal of eight homes.

A $6.6 million plan to improve intersections along Providence Road could be replaced with a less expensive alternative that demolishes fewer houses.

The Columbia Historic Preservation Commission submitted a report to City Council on Monday night that recommended they vote to rescind the plan. This would affect Providence Road between Stadium Boulevard and Stewart Road.

After reviewing a report submitted by the Columbia Historic Preservation Commission and listening to public comments, City Council voted to have a public hearing in two months on whether to rescind the Phase 1 plan, which was adopted Nov. 19.

The current plan includes the acquisition and removal of eight homes.

The report also states the council misstepped by foregoing a meeting with interested parties in order to receive input on the first phase of the two-phase plan.

The commission believes that the council "approved a major transportation plan on Nov. 19, 2012 that was not properly shared with the public as required by the ordinance process," according to the report.

Section 22-71 of the city's Code of Ordinances requires the council hold an interested parties meeting prior to approving a plan for improvements.

There were two Interested Parties meetings in 2008 and 2010.

The commission said that the concept of acquiring and demolishing eight homes through eminent domain and building an access road parallel to Wayne Road and Providence Road was not one of the proposals presented to stakeholders in either meeting, according to the report.

Columbia resident Robert Duncan owns one of the eight homes that would be demolished under the current plan. He spoke at the meeting and addressed concerns that he was never properly notified about his property being taken by the city.

"There was no attempt by anyone to notify us of this action," Duncan said. "If the city is going to separate someone from their property against their will, I believe the city should actively reach out to us."

Columbia resident Jeremy Root also spoke during the public comment session and expressed fears that the proper procedures weren't adequately followed.

"I think they took a small step in the right direction," Root said. "I hope in two months' time they realize the course they took was wrong."

The Providence Road project is an issue that involves more than just property stakeholders, Root said.

"I think it's a community issue," Root said. "It's not just a grasslands issue. It's a city issue. There needs to be a plan in place that addresses traffic concerns while also taking into consideration other views."

Fifth Ward councilwoman Laura Nauser proposed the motion to call a public hearing about rescinding the Phase 1 plan.

"This is an issue that's been going on for many years," Nauser said. "I think what we have here is a prime example of Columbia — where we are always trying to go back and fix a problem we create because we didn't plan adequately for the future."

The procedures that were not properly followed in the adoption of the Phase 1 plan need to be addressed, Nauser said at the meeting.

"I have to say that I'm disappointed in the fact that this process appears that it did not, by all accounts, follow proper procedure," Nauser said. "We were talking about taking $7 million of community taxpayer money to spend on a problem that the city could not follow our proper procedures to adequately notify at the proper meetings. That's disturbing, especially when we're talking about the use of eminent domain."

Mayor Bob McDavid expressed concerns that the Birch Road alternative, an alternative that would not require eminent domain, was never made available to council before they voted on Nov. 19. He voted in support of Nauser's motion.

Nauser also expressed the need for a timeframe for the Providence Road project.

"In 2014, City Council is going to have to come up with a list of road projects that are going to go on our capital improvement request to extend that tax, and so that is the time the council will decide what road projects to present the community to fund," Nauser said. "I think that should be the deadline of any new project to come forward for this."

All council members except for First Ward councilman Fred Schmidt voted to approve Nauser's proposal.

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