Friday, December 12, 2008

BEAT BYTE EXTRA! City Hall Plans Historic Land Grab

COLUMBIA, 12/12/08 (Beat Byte) -- Months of swirling rumors are true.

In a precedent-setting move at its Monday meeting, the Columbia City Council will consider an ordinance to "acquire, by negotiation or condemnation," several parcels of privately held property around Fifth, Sixth, and Elm Streets to make way -- not for a new road or sewer line -- but for a new State Historical Society museum.

The legislation has been added to the Council's automatically-approved Consent Agenda and will move to the next phase.   City Hall insiders tipped off the Columbia Heart Beat about the secretive move. 

Declaring the acquisitions "necessary for the welfare and improvement of the city and in the public interest," the ordinance will be presented for a January 5th public hearing, during a holiday period when many city residents are either busy or away.

Included in the condemnation package:  U.S. Cleaners at 501 Elm St.; recently remodeled Bengals Bar and Grill, at 227 S. 6th St.; and a rental house at 216 S. Fifth St. renovated and owned by Addison's restaurant proprietors Matt Jenne, Adam Dushoff, and Fifth Street Investments, LLC.

"The Missouri Historical Society has outgrown its current location," the city staff report reads.  With an MU parking lot on the north half of the block, the historical society has "requested the assistance of the City in acquiring the south half of the block, if the Society is unable to reach agreement for sale of the properties with the current owners."

But the owners say no one from either the historical society or City Hall has even contacted them.

"Outside of a few rumors, this is the first I've heard about it," said Jenne. "No one has made us any offers; no one has initiated any negotiations."

As an instrument of precedent that can deprive private citizens of their basic civil liberty to own and manage land, eminent domain ordinances, many believe, bear constitutional or charter-level importance and should be subjected to rigorous, long-term debate.   

The non-necessity nature of a museum and the unfortunate history of eminent domain in Columbia's recent past make a strong case for even greater importance here.   Morality, ethics, and basic economics also come into play.

"In this troubled economy, downtown property is a pretty solid investment," one downtown property owner emailed me upon hearing the news.  "Those tracts have lifelong income potential. For some, like my family, our little lot is very important to my mother’s retirement income. Eminent domain is a retirement nest-egg thief." 


Council Bill B377-08
Council Resolution R284-08 

-- Mike Martin for the Columbia Heart Beat

1 comment:

  1. Hi Mike,

    Interesting story. Thought I'd let you know that I posted it to


    Jenna Krewson
    MyMO Site Administrator