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A map shows the proposed boundaries of a community improvement district in Southern Hills to treat and dredge three algae-laden lakes in the neighborhood.
SBJ graphic by Wes Hamilton
A map shows the proposed boundaries of a community improvement district in Southern Hills to treat and dredge three algae-laden lakes in the neighborhood.

Southern Hills residents seek added property tax to save their lakes

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Southern Hills residents are looking to impose added 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 last night reviewed the petition and is expected to vote on the proposal during its first regular meeting in April. 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,” John 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.”

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