Last updated: December 16. 2013 4:19PM - 1075 Views
By Travis McMullen Democrat Columnist

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You know, I was skeptical of the Citizens for a Clean Sedalia at first.

We live in a society that features thousands of different committees on all levels of government and many of them barely manage to accomplish having another meeting, much less actually getting anything done.

But the Citizens for a Clean Sedalia seem to be actually accomplishing things. They organized real, street level action against yard clutter and they contributed significantly to the development of the recently passed ordinance that will require downtown buildings to be thoroughly inspected.

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m no fan of any government randomly deciding to impose more sanctions on building owners without any justification. Sometimes governments do pass legislation for the sake of passing legislation — but that’s not the case here.

We’ve watched helplessly as the grand structures of downtown Sedalia have been slowly but surely collapsing. At a troubling pace there was a new picture of a pile of rubble that used to be a piece of the downtown legacy and a story about a beloved institution that used to be.

Some portray these additional requirements as some sort of punishment, or invasion of privacy. I don’t like that the people who properly maintain their downtown properties are going to have to deal with these additional hassles — but the people who neglected their holdings to the point of collapse ruined it for everyone else.

There are obviously those who refuse, even with the threat of property destruction hanging over them, to do their due diligence regarding their downtown properties. Maybe they aren’t feeling enough heat — a building falls, the city cleans it up at their expense, and then a legal battle ensues as the city attempts to get the building owner to pay for the cleanup. Anyone that can afford to practically forget about a property can probably afford to fight a legal battle for a while, so it’s kind of a mess, both literally and metaphorically.

To their credit, many responsible downtown building owners are in full support of the ordinance. Local artist Doug Freed maintains his studio in one of downtown Sedalia’s historic structures and was quoted by Sedalia Democrat reporter Emily Jarrett in a recent story about the passing of the ordinance:

“I’ve owned my building for 32 years but I’m more concerned about the building next to me,” he said. “For the past 20 years it’s sat vacant and I would like to know that it’s safe.”

Imagine a lifetime of responsible structure management undone in a matter of minutes because of nothing more than proximity to a structure that has been treated to a lifetime of anything but. Imagine a whole block of buildings coming down because the one on the end collapsed just right. When you own a building that practically shares a wall with the other structures on the block you’ve got to be a little more concerned with the damage you can cause to the structures that you don’t own.

If a building sat in the middle of nowhere and its collapse wouldn’t really affect anyone else then it might be allowed to do so without so much as a passing glance. But this is a part of Sedalia that we’re committed to resuscitating and the collapse of these buildings endangers other people’s property and maybe even their lives.

We’ve been collectively putting a lot of work into downtown Sedalia: the streetscape project, the roadway arch, the transformation of the Fox Theater into a usable gathering space, and the eventual renovation of the Uptown Theater and the recent announcement of improvements to the Liberty Center.

We’re sitting on a district that actually appears to be on the upswing and I think the Sedalia City Council just approved the ordinance that is going to assure all of it. Nobody wants to start or move their business into an area ripe with mostly buildings that could range anywhere from “mostly habitable” to “days away from collapse.”

After all, it’s hard to make progress before you take steps to assure that downtown Sedalia isn’t just going to systematically collapse.

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