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February 20, 2013  BY Jack Suntrup

COLUMBIA, Mo. — The 10-year long debate over how to best ease congestion along Providence Road near Stadium Drive will go on, at least for another two months.

After reading two reports and hearing from about a dozen residents, the city council voted 5-1 to hold a public hearing over whether Phase I of the plan the council had already approved on Nov. 19 should be rescinded.

The plan’s first phase would include new roads connecting Burnham, Bingham and Brandon roads as well as lengthening the right-hand turn lane on Providence near Stadium, adding a median on Providence and installing stoplights at three intersections.

The second phase includes the demolition of eight homes along Providence and in the Grasslands neighborhood.

Residents and Laura Nauser, the newly elected fifth ward councilwoman, said that stakeholders were left out of the planning process for the latest plan, which shouldn’t have happened considering the $6.6 million price tag and the use of eminent domain.

“My suggestion is that we rescind what we passed on Nov. 19 and start over,” Nauser said. “I know there’s a lot of people involved as stakeholders, and there are going to have to be concessions; we all can’t have what we want.”

The council was presented with an alternative plan that would reconstruct Birch Street, add a sidewalk and save most of the homes. The proposal could shave an estimated $1 million off the total cost.

Although Grasslands resident Susan “Tootie” Burns opposed the proposal, Mayor Bob McDavid said that he wished it would have been proposed instead of the current plan.

McDavid said he was in favor of going back to the drawing board.

“This is going to be a process where somebody is going to be very unhappy at the end of the day, that’s why we’re 10 years into this,” McDavid said. “I really feel like this council on Nov. 19, should’ve been presented with the Birch Street option.”

Most residents were happy with the vote to postpone a final decision until after the public hearing two months from now, though after 10 years of debate with numerous proposals being drawn up just to be scrapped, frustration showed.

“I’ve seen a lot of projects: there’s probably been more meetings on this one than any I can think of, so for anyone to leave tonight thinking it hasn’t been discussed, it’s been discussed to death and back,” said Mike Matthes, the city manager.

“New people come to the table who haven’t been involved and I can see that, and I understand why people feel like they haven’t been consulted,” he said. “So, it probably is a good idea to start from scratch.”