Homeowners in Columbia's North Village face extinction. Nearby merchants may be next.

COLUMBIA, 9/25/12 (Op Ed) -- From these two items:



...it appears a predictable crisis is brewing around Odle Acres, i.e. the Brookside Apartments on College and Walnut. Make that another in a series of crises one might cast in a film called "Dawn of the Brain Dead."

Brain dead policies; brain dead plans; brain dead leadership blundering so badly around our desirable downtown, in time there won't be anything desirable left.

According to the items -- a Columbia Tribune article and a City Council request for comment -- problems new to the neighborhood around the apartments (which years ago was affectionately known by some as "Fr. Hubbell and the Saints," for the street names) include:

1) Fewer parking spaces on St. Joseph Street

2) More fights, litter and noise in what was once a "sleepy neighborhood"

Other reports cite an uptick in vandalism and theft. All this with just a fraction of the 720 student tenants expected after Odle Two (more apartments across the street) is complete.

Another instance of "city leaders, we told ya so," or "we tried to tell ya so" -- we being anyone with a brain. But why bother to point that out? Unless you have an attorney named Van Matre or Dan Simon, the zombies making policy here don't listen -- and frankly, don't give a damn.

Of course, neither do the developers, in this case two spoiled Gen X-ers with a peculiarly cavalier community relations strategy. Look at how many times the Odle brothers can't bother to comment in that Trib story -- or any other story. They NEVER have anything to say, in fact, even in the most dire circumstances.

Place burned to the ground? Talk to the hand. Neighbors in an uproar? Talk to the hand. Crime, noise, vandalism, streams polluted with charred cinders, tenants displaced, firefighters risking their lives?

Talk to the Van! Van Matre, that is. Crisis management, this is not.

(Rumor has it the two Hickman grads have already sold all their downtown stuff to an out-of-state hedge fund, so maybe they don't have to give a damn).

Meanwhile, one wonders what options are left residents on St. Joseph, Hubbell, St. James and so forth, as their neighborhood faces extinction. They could:

a) Join a class action lawsuit and sue the city for "inverse condemnation," i.e. depriving them of their property rights with re-zoning so grossly inappropriate it's been mired in controversy for nearly two years.

"Rezoning is not a right, and I'm greatly concerned about the impact it's having on the neighbors," Planning and Zoning member Ann Peters said during debate about the Odle project. But in Columbia, with the right attorney, you can rezone anything.

Maybe if the neighbors had the right attorney, they could get a fair shake for what has been stolen from them -- their lives in their homes. After all, whenever neighbors stand in the way of hare-brained rezoning schemes, they get castigated by the attorneys for depriving developers of their property rights!

b) Do what others already have -- sell out for big bucks to the Odles or Boone County Family Resources (the other nearby rental developer). The entire area will soon be nothing more than apartments anyway, so why hang around and get scolded and lawyered to death for doing what any sane person would do?

Sell out, get out, collective middle fingers held high.

c) Just be nice and continue to take it, grumbling here and there. Brain dead zombies like that strategy: it makes feasting easier.

Finally, North Village Arts merchants should listen up, too. Once the Bohemian Buffer of artsy, preservation-minded homeowners is gone, what will stand between their shops, hundreds of student renters, and the criminal types who prey on them?

Oh, where to park for that gallery opening. And why is that man trying to -- jimmy our car door?!