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City Beat: Council approves ‘blight’ redevelopment delay

The administrative delay pauses the processing of redevelopment plans while the city creates stronger blight and tax abatement guidelines

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Springfield’s Department of Planning and Development has pushed a pause button on proposed redevelopment plans of blighted properties. City Council members on Oct. 16 unanimously passed a resolution initiating an administrative delay on the acceptance, processing and approval of redevelopment plans submitted through the Land Clearance Redevelopment Authority.

The LCRA provides tax abatement incentives to encourage investment in the removal of blight within designated urban renewal areas. Springfield Economic Development Director Sarah Kerner presented the delay in response to requests by council members to adopt a workable program for Chapter 99 property tax abatements authorized under the LCRA law of the Missouri Revised Statutes.

“The need for the administrative delay is to put a pause on development projects while we prepare the workable program,” Kerner said. “A workable program is a tool that’s authorized as part of the LCRA law, and it basically gives cities a way of tailoring the program to their particular needs.”

Additionally, a workable program would allow council to clearly state all the criteria the governing body would consider in applications for tax abatement projects in the city.

“Currently, we’re using the language straight out of Chapter 99 statute,” Kerner said. “We don’t have anything that’s specific to Springfield.”

The statutory purpose of a workable program, Kerner said, is to deal with existing blight, establish and preserve a well-planned community with residential neighborhoods suitable for family life, use appropriate private and public resources to eliminate and prevent the spread of blight, and encourage needed urban rehabilitation.

Kerner said any new or amended Chapter 99 redevelopment plans would have to meet the workable program requirements, though already approved Chapter 99 plans would not be impacted. The delay also would have no impact on obtaining city permits for demolition or construction.

“This is purely on the economic development incentive side of things,” she said.

Noting Kansas City and St. Louis already have similar workable programs in place, Kerner said Springfield’s economic development office could build a customized workable program in 60 days.

Butler, Rosenbury & Partners Inc. partner Geoffrey Butler spoke on behalf of a client, Roza Homes LLC, following Kerner.

“I support a workable program, but I object to this resolution,” Butler said. “The client that I represent has been working through the process, has been approved by LCRA, should have been heard two weeks ago and was pulled by the city manager’s office – because of this workable program idea.”

Roza Homes planned to demolish a single-family dwelling and a set of apartments at the southeast corner of South Kimbrough Avenue and Harrison Street to build a four-story, 17-unit multifamily residential apartment building. Roza Homes owner Brandon Dickman sought 10 years of property tax abatements for his company’s redevelopment plan, and council documents call the project a case where it would not be built “but for” the tax abatement.

Butler said Roza Homes’ properties at 600-610 E. Harrison St. have been blighted since the 1960s.

“It’s what you call a legacy property,” he said. “If you pass this resolution as written, he’s dead in the water until the workable program is figured out. Sixty days is not going to happen, folks.”

Councilman Richard Ollis said it’s important the city expeditiously passes through the new plan.

“I would also support and advocate for an update to our comprehensive plan, which is virtually 20 years old,” Ollis said. “So, I would certainly support this.”

Roza Homes’ redevelopment plan was listed as a public hearing bill on the Oct. 16 council agenda, but council’s approval of the administrative delay puts the tax abatement request on hold.

Magers as neighbors
By a 7-1 vote, council approved rezoning developer Randy Magers’ property near Missouri State University for plans to demolish and rebuild apartment buildings. The zoning and redevelopment plans for 806-816 S. Kimbrough Ave. and 614-616 E. Madison St. were first heard at council’s Oct. 2 meeting.

Councilman Craig Hosmer was in opposition, and Councilwoman Phyllis Ferguson was absent.

The property owned by Magers Properties III LLC was previously zoned as a high-density, multifamily district. Now as a planned development, Magers has the green light to add retail space on the ground floor and 20 microefficiency apartments above.

The property is behind the proposed site for a new MSU residence hall at the corner of Madison and Holland Avenue that Magers’ brother, Bryan Magers, was approved to build. Bryan Magers was the sole respondent in February to the university’s request for information on the construction of a 400-bed dorm. The earliest anticipated completion of the dorm is 2019, according to Springfield Business Journal archives.

Incident-based reporting
Council unanimously voted to accept a $411,772 grant from the United States Department of Justice to be dolled out to three law enforcement agencies.

Split between the Springfield Police Department, the Nixa Police Department and the Greene County Sheriff’s Office, the funds enable the agencies to comply with the National Incident-Based Reporting System.

According to council documents, all law enforcement agencies that participate in the FBI Uniform Crime Reporting program are required to move to an incident-based reporting system by Jan. 1, 2021. Springfield Police Chief Paul Williams said his department currently follows a summary-based reporting system.

“We were one of 400 agencies nationwide selected to receive some assistance in our transition to that,” Williams told council. 

The grant comes through the National Crime Statistics Exchange Implementation Assistance Program Phase VI: Support for Small and Medium Local Law Enforcement Agencies.

The Uniform Crime Reporting program is an effort by roughly 18,000 city, state, federal and college/university law enforcement agencies to voluntarily report data on crimes brought to their attention, according to FBI.gov. The data is used to generate reliable information for law enforcement operation and management but also has become a leading indicator for use by those in the fields of social sciences, legislation and the media.

The Nixa Police Department will receive $159,697, the Springfield Police Department $156,762 and the Greene County Sheriff’s Office $95,313.

Williams said the monies fund a NIBRS coordinator staff position for two years, plus software and hardware for tracking.

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