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Columbia developer takes city to court over decade-old loan

Amir Ziv had his dream dashed by years of what he sees as government delays.

“I don’t mind regulation, I don’t mind things that make sense,” Ziv said. “But when they don’t, you got to fight it.”

Ziv has filed a petition in small claims court seeking $5,000 from the city over a Community Development Block Grant loan he took out in 2008. Ziv claims that numerous delays he ran into while trying to build three cottage-style homes on Ridgeway Avenue that year led to his investor in the project withdrawing his support, scuttling the development altogether.

Ziv proposed the project, dubbed “Cozy Cottages,” in 2008 after seeing a similar development in Washington state. The three homes would occupy a 1,600-square-foot lot as an affordable housing option in central Columbia.

Ziv secured a $6,800 loan from the city through the Community Development Block Grant home demolition program. Documents obtained by ABC 17 News show that the city paid Ziv’s contractor for the work in October 2008. The demolition agreement states that the city would pay for 100 percent of the cost of demolition, provided that Ziv begin development within a year.

“If I would have started the project within a year, or built the first house within a year, that lien would have been taken away,” Ziv said.

City council records show that the council at the time unanimously supported the project. Then-Mayor Darwin Hindman urged the city staff to find ways to make Ziv’s project work, after Ziv complained to them of hold-ups. City staff, Ziv said, wanted him to follow subdivision regulations, including sewer and drainage requirements that apply to larger developments.

Costs began to build up, Ziv said. What he thought would be a months-long process to build three cottages became a multi-year negotiation with city staff to make it work. His investor left the project, putting an indefinite stop to Cozy Cottages.

Ziv tried to sell the land in December.

“I’m sitting on an empty lot,” Ziv said. “I’m hemorrhaging money on it every month. I’ve got a mortgage on it. The title company calls me and says ‘Amir, you’ve got a lien on this house of like $6,800 bucks.’ Man, that’s got to be a mistake, we’ve got to look into that.”

Ziv said he paid back the lien in order to complete the sale, but decided to go to small claims court hoping to get a piece of it back.

Money from the Community Development Block Grant program comes from the U.S. Housing and Urban Development. The city of Columbia uses them for a variety of housing projects, including home rehabilitation, demolition and ownership assistance. The demolition program offers the owners of dilapidated buildings a chance to tear down their home in specific areas of town, called the Neighborhood Response Team area.

“As the physical environment of the NRT area continues to improve, the city hopes that the crime rate in the area will reduce, and the number of owner-occupied homes will increase-both of these factors will be of tremendous benefit to the quality of life of the residents,” the guidelines said. “Property values should also increase.”

Randy Cole, the current administrator of the CDBG loan program, said he could not comment on Ziv’s case. Assistant city attorney Steven Van Matre filed a response in court, claiming several defenses. Van Matre said it did take Ziv “some time to pursue his project but denies [the] City caused or contributed to the delay.” The response also noted that the city’s Planning and Zoning Commission voted against Ziv’s request to rezone the land.

The city has loaned out thousands of dollars for home demolition. Central Missouri Community Action received a $10,230 to demolish a home on King Avenue. Boone County Family Resources got $19,680 to tear down a home on Apple Tree Lane.

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