Strip Mall Owner Responds to Filed Criminal Charges

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COLUMBIA - Mark Stevenson is unhappy with the status of things -- two of which being the various elements of debris at the former Business Loop 70 strip mall and the recently filed criminal charges against him.

The City of Columbia filed six charges against Stevenson of Real Estate Management, Inc. (REMI) for "failing to comply with [Notices] of Violation issues by the Community Development Department," according to information provided by the circuit court of Boone County.

The fire started on April 1 and Columbia fire investigators estimated nearly $7 million in damages and lost propoerty. Court documents indicate by April 2, the Community Development Department issued a letter stating Stevenson's property was a public nuisance. The letter also noted that Stevenson had 45 days to complete demolition and clean-up of the property. But, Stevenson had other plans.

"...The easy route would be to dump all this in the landfill," Stevenson said in a statement. "Morally, I could not contribute to our landfill problems and waste this huge quantity of valuable material."

Stevenson says he planned to donate what could be salvaged, and clean the property for resale.

Before he could begin moving the debris, Stevenson had to wait on the Missouri Department of Natural Resources to give the go-ahead.

"We had to find out if there were hazardous materials here," Stevenson said. "So we had to wait for that report."

The DNR's report came, but 11 days after Stevenson's original deadline to complete demolition and clean-up.

Stevenson says complications between himself, the City of Columbia and the Department of Natural resources caused a delay in clean-up.

"I don't understand why the city is so confused on the issue," Stevenson said.

The first charge against Stevenson for failing to complete demolition and clean-up was on June 22 and five more were to follow.

"If I had a magic wand and I could clean it up overnight, I would. If I could put a new building back overnight, would."

Stevenson requested a jury trial, scheduled for Nov. 15.