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Springfield, MO

City Beat: Southern Hills seeks tax to save lakes

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Southern Hills residents are looking to impose additional property taxes to treat and dredge three algae-laden lakes in the neighborhood.

More than 200 property owners of the southeast Springfield community signed a petition to create a new community improvement district.

Springfield City Council on March 26 reviewed the petition and is expected to vote on the proposal April 9. Several residents spoke in favor of the added tax.

Governed by a seven-member board of directors, the proposed district would encompass 268.5 acres of Southern Hills and include nearly 350 properties that surround the three troubled lakes, said Sarah Kerner, the city’s Economic Development director.

Kerner said the CID would impose up to 39 cents of extra property taxes per $100 of valuation. She said the proceeds would be used to remedy algae growth in the three lakes through water-quality testing, annual treatments, infrastructure and future dredging to remove sediment.

The district would be in place for 25 years and annually produce about $43,000, Kerner said. She said if council OKs the petition, approval of the added tax would be decided by residents within the proposed district. They would vote via mail-in ballot at a yet-to-be-determined date.

Resident Denise Heintz said Southern Hills was developed in the 1950s by John Q. Hammons and Lee McLean Jr. Heintz said subsequent maintenance of the lakes has since lacked, with added nearby development over the years only worsening the water bodies.

Heintz, a partner in O’Reilly Development Co. LLC, said the neighborhood already raised $340,000 in private donations to dredge the northern-most lake in 2017, as well as to dredge the neighborhood’s middle lake this year.

Resident John Heintz, a real estate broker of more than 50 years who grew up near Southern Hills, said the lakes previously were pristine. They now stink, he said.

“Over the years, what has happened is that the city has used those lakes for water retention,” Heintz said. “So they started building spillways, and the spillways were coming off of Sunshine [Street]. And then they put in [Highway] 65, and they added more spillways.”

As a result, he said, the lakes accumulated mounting sediment and algae.

“If we don’t do something to correct the problem, those lakes are going to become filled in, and nobody will want to live in Southern Hills,” Heintz said. “The smell coming off that algae in the summertime is horrible. You don’t even want to walk by it.”

Workable program
In other business, council voiced final approval of a new workable program for developers to secure property tax abatements on projects.

The abatement revision establishes a baseline abatement of 50 percent, with developers accumulating points to qualify for up to 75 percent abatements for single-project redevelopments.

The city has imposed additional guidelines and priorities, such as blight verification and a new “but for” test that requires developers to prove a project would not be possible without tax abatement.

A scorecard will be used to achieve an abatement greater than 50 percent, with additional points being awarded on such factors as whether a development aids a financially distressed area, increases community benefit or improves public safety, landscaping and environmental stewardship.

Redevelopment plans covering multiple projects could still get a 100 percent abatement, though multiproject plans need renewal every five years.

Planned developments
Council signed off on a request to rezone 16 acres at Ozarks Technical Community College’s 1001 E. Chestnut Expressway campus for consistent government-institute zoning.

Consistent zoning allows for additional campus development, including a planned eastward expansion of the college’s Industry Transportation and Technology Center, currently budgeted at about $2 million, according to OTC officials.

Council also rezoned roughly 8.5 acres for a planned mixed-used development at 3811 S. Weller St. that includes multifamily residential, office and personal-service space. An accompanying planned development district allows for up to 15 residential units per acre and up to 10,000 square feet of first-floor space for office and personal-service uses, according to city documents. Located directly north of Thompson Sales Co. auto dealership, the rezoning request was made by developer Sam M. Coryell and Weller Development LLC.

Additionally, council approved a rezoning of nearly 5 acres at 1701 South Fort Ave. and 1401 W. Elfindale St. Vetter Senior Living made the request and plans to construct an assisted-living center on undeveloped acreage adjacent to the Mansion at Elfindale bed and breakfast, according to city documents.

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