Preservation Commission Urges Council to Nix Providence Plans

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COLUMBIA - The Columbia Historic Preservation Commission is calling on the city council to scrap its new $6.9 million Phase 1/Phase 2 Providence Road plan. 

The city council's most recent proposal to help ease traffic flow and create more accessibility for the neighborhood running along Providence involves demolishing eight houses, a decision the commission said homeowners were not a part of. Following debates regarding the practicality and manner of the proposal, Mayor Bob McDavid asked the commission to write such a report summarizing the communications regarding this proposal and highlighting pitfalls in the process.

The commission's report, which will be presented at Monday's city council meeting, said an "Interested Parties" meeting, during which stakeholders would be able to view the proposal and make comments or suggestions, never took place for this specific plan. According to the city's Code of Ordinances, such a meeting must take place before public hearings begin. 

"This project, and this particular plan, would have benefitted from the opportunity for greater dialogue between the city, all stakeholders, and taxpayers," the commission states. "That did not happen. The failure of this level of dialogue has now created distrust by the public. It has also undermined confidence in our qualified city staff and elected officials."

This is not the first proposal the city has considered for improving traffic flow on Providence Road. In both 2008 and 2010, several different proposals were explored, none of which involved the demolition of houses alongside the street. "Interested Parties" meetings did take place both years, but as the eight houses were not involved with any of these earlier proposals, the commission says such meetings should not count towards the latest proposal. 

The Columbia City Council meeting is set to begin at 7:00 p.m.