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Apartment owner fights city code changes

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A bill was introduced to Springfield City Council last night that would lift bulk plane requirements on developments in commercial, office or general retail districts if they are adjacent to residential multifamily districts.

Under current bulk plane requirements, city codes put height and distance restrictions on commercial developments adjacent to residential districts. For example, in an office district next to a residential district, structures cannot exceed 35 feet high and must remain below a 45 degree angle as measured from the district boundary line.

The proposed ordinance would enforce current restrictions in only single-family residential or town house districts.

Hotelier Gordon Elliott, who owns two apartment buildings at 2039 and 2049 S. Florence Ave., said he feels this move would allow a proposed five-story hotel at the southwest corner of East Cherokee Street and South National Avenue to build within 20 feet of his multifamily properties.  

“This change singles out apartments,” Elliott said. “Our residents would be treated as second-class citizens under these rules.”

The owners of 1.86 acres across from St. John’s Hospital are seeking rezoning to a general retail district of the six adjacent commercial and residential properties at that corner to allow for the construction of a five-story, 107-room hotel. Representatives of the land owners, One Hundred Two Glenstone Inc., which is operated by Springfield-based real estate company C. Arch Bay, held a meeting Aug. 18 at the Library Center to discuss the development plans with area residents. The plans were officially submitted to building development services Aug. 22, and a public hearing with the Planning and Zoning Commission on the development proposal is scheduled for Sept. 29.

Elliott said he is not opposed to the land owners building a hotel on their property, but if current restrictions were kept in place, he estimated that there only would be room for 60 to 80 units on the site and that the hotel would not be able to back up to the zoning line next to his apartments on Florence Avenue.

Mayor Jim O’Neal asked Planning & Development Director Ralph Rognstad if there was a catalyst for the proposed changes. Rogstad said the purpose of the proposal was to expand options for development along commercial corridors, and that these changes would allow mixed-use property developers to be adjacent to retail or business districts without the worry of bulk plane restrictions.

A couple of councilmembers questioned whether the changes would affect a bill that would change the floor-area ratio allowing for the development of another proposed five-story hotel at the 1800 block of East Republic Road. Rognstad said it wouldn't and that the bills were unrelated.

For more city beat coverage, check out the Sept. 26 print edition of the Springfield Business Journal.
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