Tuesday, August 30, 2011

THE TROUBLE ON HUBBELL: Why is county agency demolishing homes on little street?

Past controversies, future uncertainties trouble neighbors
COLUMBIA, 8/30/11  (BeatByte) -- A Boone County agency that has been the subject of controversy in recent years may be aggressively buying property on a little street of older homes in North Central Columbia, and one neighbor wants to know why.  Initially posted on the North Central Columbia email listserv, her questions have since made the rounds of downtown leadership groups.

"Boone County Family Resources (BCFR) is trying to buy more Hubbell Drive property.  They have contacted the owner of --- Hubbell Dr.," wrote Diana Howland, a homeowner for nearly 17 years on the street.  "If they do buy the property, they will have possession of three adjoining properties on Hubbell Dr.   One home they already demolished and turned into a neighborhood 'park.'  But nobody in the neighborhood has access to this park because the gate is locked."
Of even greater concern to Howland are potentially undisclosed demolition plans at the hands of the public agency.  "Out of the six properties BCFR owns on Hubbell and East Ash, they have demolished four homes," Howland wrote.  "They plan on paving the College/East Ash 'garden' property this year for more parking." 
Listserv members responded with concern.  "I agree that the homes on Hubbell are central to The [North Central] Village and should not be destroyed one by one," said Susan Taylor-Glasgow, a nationally-noted glass artist and longtime neighborhood resident.  "I have artists from all over Missouri asking about relocating to the 'arts area' of Columbia.  It would be nice if we had some homes." 
With less than 20 homes, Hubbell Drive is one block from Orr Street Studios and Columbia's thriving new North Village Arts District
For years, Boone County government has been trying to rent thousands of unused square feet in downtown buildings it owns, prompting Hubbell St. property owner Tracy Greever-Rice to note, "I think it's a reasonable question to ask why county government is purposely or inadvertently destabilizing a solid, safe, downtown residential neighborhood when it continues to have lots of underutilized property already." 
Hubbell Drive neighbors have had problems with Boone County Family Resources' undisclosed demolition plans before.  Five years ago, "the sound of heavy machinery Monday morning was some residents of Hubbell Drive’s first notice of Boone County Family Resources' decision to demolish the dilapidated house it owned on the street," the Columbia Missourian reported.   'We had not one moment to complain, to ask questions, to do anything,' said Jessie Lawson, a retired college administrator who will teach an English course at MU this fall."
The following year, two BCFR board members (including this writer's wife) left the agency in protest over transparency and finance issues that led to a Missouri attorney general's office complaint. 
Howland's question, meanwhile, has made its way to the Downtown Leadership Council (DLC) and Downtown Business District, whose leaders may be wondering why BCFR wants more parking when a giant new parking garage on nearby Short Street is in the works.  Both organizations are engaged in a sustained drive to bring residents downtown, an issue disability advocate Charles Dudley noted. 
Hubbell Drive home demolitions "do not sound good, when I have heard we are trying to attract more people to live downtown," Dudley wrote. 
Howland's question comes at a tricky time for downtown planners.  DLC members are negotiating the treacherous waters of yet more TIFs, in this case an entire downtown district devoted to the tax incentives very close to Hubbell Drive.  TIFs promise developers a big payoff if they can secure "blight" declarations from local governments, often directed at older neighborhoods.
Demolition is a crucial step in the "redevelopment" to follow, and Howland expressed concern that Don Stamper, executive director of the Central Missouri Development Council is also a BCFR board member. 
"Does anybody know what he plans on turning my neighborhood into?" she asked. 


  1. They will build more apartment/condos for students who want to be able to walk home from the bars. No artists allowed.

  2. Boone County Family Resources has been wonderful to us and many other Columbia families affected by disability.

    Perhaps they are unwisely trying to expand their (tiny) parking lot into a historic street, but you might try taking some broader approach than your usual one of automatically vilifying a public agency.

    I would hate to see BCFR get damaged like the State Historical Society did when you created a scandal over their expansion plans (only plans, and as in this case, nothing remotely illegal or corrupt).

  3. I don't think anyone has criticized BCFR's work or service to families -- certainly not Mike Martin.

    Just because an angency or entity does good work for some portion of the population, does not mean they should be permitted to do whatever they want to a neighborhood that existed long before they did.

  4. As much as the CMDC and other development types would love to continue to use collaborationist public entities like BCFR, the asessor's office, and the city's approval of TIF's as tools to bully or bribe residential property owners and/or small scale investors out of their homes and small businesses, ANY discussion of "blight" in Columbia's C2 (downtown) zoning district is going to be had in the context of the rotting pile of hazardous waste, barren wasteland, and currently wholly-in-violation of zoning restrictions against using C2 property as outdoor equipment storage space that is the southwest corner of Broadway and Providence.