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Council approves ‘blight’ redevelopment delay

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Springfield City Council last night 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.”

Furthermore, 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 plan 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 and build a new four-story, 17-unit multifamily residential apartment building at the southeast corner of South Kimbrough Avenue and Harrison Street.

Butler said Roza Homes’ property has been blighted since the 1960s.

“It’s what you call a legacy property,” Butler 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.”

As a result of council’s approval of the bill, Roza Homes was unable to present its redevelopment plan for an area generally located at 600-610 E. Harrison St., which was listed as a public hearing bill on last night’s council agenda.

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