JC Demolition Ordinance

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JEFFERSON CITY - It only takes the swinging of a wrecking ball to reduce a historic building to rubble.

One group asked Jefferson City to make it a little harder for people to get permits to demolish historic buildings. In September 2015 the Historic City of Jefferson, a preservation advocacy group, presented the City with a demolition ordinance update and expressed its concerns. The city listened and decided it was time for a change.

The City of Jefferson Historic Preservation Commission (CJHPC) has drafted an updated demolition ordinance and the Commission is asking for the public's feedback. 

The ordinance applies to the "Historic Preservation Commission Boundary" which includes properties from the Missouri River to Dix Road and Warwick Village to Belair Street. The new draft would require property owners to submit more information than is currently required for demolition applications. Another major change is the new ordinance would make the appeals process more difficult for a property owner. 

Jayme Abbott, the city liaison for CJHPC, said one of the main concerns was how all options led to demolition. She said the advocacy group complained the ordinance had no "teeth."

"As part of the review process, the Historic Preservation Commission was to deny or recommend denial of the demolition permit, essentially the permit would just lapse for 60 days," Abbott said. "Then the demolition permit executed to the applicant."

Under the current demolition ordinance, there are three avenues for demolition. Each road starts with a property owner submitting a demolition application to CJHPC who reviews the application and makes a recommendation to the city based on considerations such as historical significance and condition. If CJHPC recommends the application be approved, then the building can be demolished. If CJHPC recommends a hold on the decision, the city has 60 days to look at the application and make a decision. If the time lapses with no action, the demolition permit is approved. If the demolition permit is denied by CJHPC, the city has 30 days to take action. If it doesn't, the application is again approved.

"Under the original ordinance it was too easy for residents to get a demolition permit," Cathy Bordner a member of the Historic City of Jefferson said. "We felt if the ordinance stayed as is, there would be no historic buildings left."

Bordner has been documenting historic demolition projects since 2010. She said out of about 111 applications, the city approved 101 for demolition. Out of the 10 that the CJHPC recommended for either denial, other action, or a two month hold, nine were demolished anyway. Abbott said she did not know the exact numbers but confirmed fewer than 10 permits have been denied since 2012.

She said the new ordinance will fix that problem, but the Commission wants to make sure it is not missing other issues. The city is now taking comments on the proposal through Wednesday, April 12, 2017.