Last edited 2:35 p.m., Sept. 20, 2022 [Editor's note: A statement from the Galloway Village Neighborhood Association has been added.]
The Springfield Area Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors is endorsing a controversial Galloway Village rezoning initiative slated to appear on the ballot in November.
Elevation Enterprises LLC is seeking to develop a mixed-use project across from Sequiota Park. The proposed project over the past couple years has been opposed by the Galloway Village Neighborhood Association citing concerns of traffic, congestion and encroachment on the natural environment, according to past reporting. The neighborhood association this summer won an appeal in a case brought against it by Elevation Enterprises and the city, maintaining the public may use the municipal election process to appeal city zoning decisions.
The fate of the development is slated to be decided during the Nov. 8 general election.
After launching a review of the ballot measure in August, the chamber board heard from Mayor Ken McClure and Elevation Enterprises' Mitch Jenkins, who both spoke in favor of the development, and members of the neighborhood association, who were in opposition, according to a news release.
The chamber board's Local Issues Task Force first recommended the endorsement.
"The GVNA is to be commended for their commitment to the character of their unique neighborhood. This sense of ownership and place is key to a vibrant community," Local Issues Task Force Chair Marshall Kinne said in the release. "However, the task force prioritized the importance of a reliable process for developers if the proposal meets the needed requirements and receives final approval from city elected officials. There was consensus among task force members that there should be trust in city staff and the Planning & Zoning Commission, who recommended this proposal be approved based on ensuring all requirements are met and the process is followed correctly.”
The task force recommendation was presented to the board yesterday.
Brian Hammons, a board member and vice chair of public affairs, additionally stated the decision involved the process of the public referendum.
“In general, there’s great concern that the biggest issue is the option to prevent a rezoning through referendum petition. There was broad agreement among the board that the conflict in the city charter that results in Springfield residents voting on zoning issues is problematic for our future growth," Hammons said in the release. "That zoning can be determined by a citywide vote also pits neighbors and developers against one another in a way that is harmful and costly to the individuals involved as well as the broader community. The city should take proactive steps to have this resolved either through legal avenues or through a ballot measure that would revise the city charter.”
The Galloway Village Neighborhood Association additionally issued a statement on the chamber board's decision.
"Galloway Village Neighborhood Association's goal in this campaign is to inform voters about the ballot question using facts, so that voters can decide for themselves whether they approve of this development or not. The chamber’s decision to support this development highlights their fear of the referendum process. The remedy of the referendum should be reserved for only the most egregious cases of government failure to represent the will of its citizens, which unfortunately has occurred in this case," the statement reads.
"If a referendum is ever necessary and proper, it is here. The referendum process is not an easy one, but citizens felt so strongly about this dense proposal and Sequiota Park that we were able to gather 2800-plus signatures in 18 days. The character of our unique corner of Springfield should not be sacrificed through attempts to silence the lawful rights of Springfield citizens granted under our city’s charter."
Council voted in September 2020 to rezone the 4.2 acres in southeast Springfield to a planned development from a single-family residential, general retail and limited business district. Galloway Village residents objected following a public meeting on the development in May 2020. In December 2020, council voted to hold a citywide election on the rezoning issue, but Elevation Enterprises sued the city to block the ballot measure. Greene County Circuit Judge David Jones in 2021 ruled in favor of Elevation Enterprises, and that decision was overturned on appeal this summer, according to past reporting.
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