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City Beat: Galloway residents stay opposed to Battlefield rezoning

Speakers at council meeting cite traffic congestion and greenspace preservation as biggest concerns

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Residents again voiced their opposition Oct. 22 to a southeast Springfield rezoning request before City Council.

Fourteen speakers, mostly residents of the Galloway Village neighborhood, addressed council members as they considered an expanded amendment to the rezoning request at 2700 E. Battlefield Road that would add such building restrictions as square footage requirements.

This is the second amendment since the bill was introduced in August, and it would limit uses of 8 acres on the southwest corner of Battlefield Road and Lone Pine Avenue to general and medical offices, as well as art galleries, libraries, museums, day care centers, places of worship and catering businesses. Public input on the amendment was extended from council’s Oct. 8 meeting.

Applicants Briarcliff Investments LLC and resident John Gentry are seeking the zoning change to make way for medical offices, and representatives say a land sale is pending council’s decision. Council members in late August tabled the proposal before revisiting the amendment earlier this month.

Galloway residents say the additional restrictions still weren’t enough.

“That intersection is a trailhead to our homes,” said Galloway resident Ron Bowles, who also voiced infrastructure concerns. “We’re asking you to consider us.”

Echoing public comments during council’s Aug. 13 meeting, the residents say they want to preserve the greenspace and natural topography of the area to keep their neighborhood unique.

“This is a prime gem in the city,” said Primrose neighborhood resident Sonja Shaw.

Speakers also criticized the expected traffic congestion and said an office building at the busy intersection is unnecessary.

City officials say they haven’t conducted a traffic study at the intersection, but one would be required if the property is rezoned.

Public Works records show 25,536 cars cross the intersection each day traveling on Battlefield and 5,952 cars traveling on Lone Pine daily.

Geoffrey Butler of BRP Architects – who represented Briarcliff Investments – said the landowner might have trouble selling the property with the amendment’s restrictions.

“We have a buyer and want to get that sale closed,” Butler said, noting a sale of the property also could be made more difficult if the current interested buyer backs out.

Councilman Matthew Simpson proposed the current amendment at the Sept. 24 meeting and a public hearing was first held Oct. 8.

Council is scheduled to vote on the rezoning bill and amendment at its Nov. 5 meeting, he said.

Rezonings approved
Council unanimously gave the green light to two rezoning bills and an annexation in southwest Springfield.

An acre near the southeast corner of West Republic Road and South Scenic Avenue was concurrently rezoned to an office district from single-family residential and annexed into the city.

The rezoning, at 4244 S. Farm Road 137, allows for office development with a maximum height of 35 feet and requires a minimum 15-foot buffer yard and stormwater detention area.

City documents state owner Kenneth Medley has plans to sell the property to an unnamed buyer, according to past Springfield Business Journal reporting. The majority of property in the surrounding area is zoned general retail, according to a city zoning map.

Council also rezoned the 18-acre Library Center property at 4653 S. Campbell Ave. to general retail from an office district.

According to city documents, Springfield-Greene County Library District would like to subdivide the southern half of the property for commercial development planned by RW Developments LLC. Library officials were in negotiations to sell 6 acres to the developers in July, prior to the rezoning request, according to past SBJ reporting.

The rezoning and pending sale would allow the property to be included in The Ridge at Ward Branch project, a 100-acre, $500 million planned development slated to begin in first-quarter 2019, according to past SBJ reporting.

No library officials spoke at the council meeting, but city documents indicate they have no plans to change the use of the Library Center building.

Capital improvements sales tax
Springfield Public Works Director Dan Smith addressed council about next year’s vote on renewing the quarter-cent capital improvements sales tax over the next 20 years.

With council approval, the issue will be sent to voters on April 2, 2019. The sales tax was first approved in 1989, Smith said, and it has been renewed nine times, with 86 percent of voters approving the tax in 2016. The tax had previously been set to sunset every three years, Smith said, but the 20-year extension would allow a longer window of planning.

Smith said the tax generates about $10 million annually for voter-approved projects and programs. Recently funded projects include Republic Road widening and the streetscape at the National Avenue and Route 66 intersection, according to city documents.

The 2019 proposal is projected to generate $11 million for street resurfacing and rehabilitation, school sidewalks, stormwater and traffic-flow projects, according to city documents.

In a public survey, from Aug. 13 to Sept. 7, citizens were asked to identify their top three projects. Smith said questions covered pavement condition, economic development and sidewalks, trails and bike lanes.

Of the more than 1,500 responses, the top three projects identified were widening jobs: on South Campbell Avenue, East Galloway Street and South Kansas Avenue, according to city documents.

The survey results also were presented to council members during an Oct. 2 luncheon.

Here are the top eight projects identified in the survey:

• Widening Campbell Avenue between Republic Road and Westview Street;

• Widening Galloway Street between Luster and Lone Pine avenues;

• Widening Kansas Avenue between Republic Road and Walnut Lawn Street;

• Reconstructing Division Street between National and Glenstone avenues;

• Improving the intersection at Battlefield Road and Lone Pine Avenue;

• Improving the intersection at National Avenue and Sunset Street;

• Widening Fremont Avenue between Erie and Independence streets; and

• Widening National Avenue between Walnut Lawn and Montclair streets.

Councilmen Mike Schilling and Richard Ollis asked Smith if the Galloway Street widening was due to the rezoning request of 2700 E. Battlefield Road. Smith said it was not.

“Our traffic department has been looking at that intersection for years, so it’s been on the books kind of waiting for adequate support for quite some time,” Smith said.

Council is scheduled to vote Nov. 5 on whether to send the tax renewal to a public vote.

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