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City council proposes law to delay demolition of certain buildings downtown

Less than a week after owners of an iconic business in downtown Columbia announced they plan to demolish and remodel, the city council proposed a new law that would halt demolition of certain buildings.

Council members are set to vote later this month on the issue. But the proposed ordinance would stop demolition of all buildings in the downtown area that are on the National Register of Historic Places for six months, Shakespeare’s Pizza included.

“Certainly it was the Shakespeare’s Pizza building that garnered some attention,” Ward 3 Councilman Karl Skala said. “So that was the driving factor behind putting something in place so that we can have time to take a deep breath and consider what the impact of what some of these demolitions have on the downtown area.”

Skala is one of the four council members in support of the proposal. Some council members said there are limited historic resources in the city and demolishing those properties to make way for, “rapid uncontrolled growth and development,” has been a problem in downtown Columbia.

“The building itself, the physical part of the building is not something that I think a lot of people have studied, although they identify with where it is and what it looks like and how it is,” Skala said.

Fourth Ward City Councilman Ian Thomas also voiced support of the law, but said he is concerned it may be unfair to developers and investors to interrupt a project that was started under different rules.

“I think we might end up with a discussion on council on the 20th as to whether projects that are already kind of in the pipeline should be exempted from this,” Thomas said.

Thomas said there are more than 80 buildings in Columbia on the registry, and most of them are in the downtown area. If the vote passes, Thomas said it will give city staff six months to look at how other cities deal with the issue and look at new laws that would provide protection to historical properties.

“They are of huge value to the larger community as well to the individual property owner or anybody that that property owner may sell the property to,” Thomas said. “And once a building’s been demolished, it’s gone and we can’t ever bring it back again in the future if we think that that was maybe a mistake.”

Two people voiced opposition to the proposal including Mayor McDavid and Ward 5 City Councilwoman Laura Nauser. Nauser told Abc 17 she does not support the proposal because she thinks it was a deliberate action to stop the demolition of Shakespeare’s Pizza. And said she is against stopping the process that has already been started.

The city council will hold a public hearing and is set to vote on the ordinance April 20.

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