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City Beat

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by Karen E. Culp

City Council approved two bills that will rezone a portion of a west central neighborhood at its Jan. 4 meeting.

A third rezoning bill was amended and tabled because of an error in its legal description of the property to be rezoned, said Brendan Griesemer, senior planner with the city's Planning and Development Department. The other two bills will take about 50 acres in the west central neighborhood from mixed zoning uses to a common zoning of single family.

The rezoning is the result of a study conducted for the West Central Neighborhood Alliance that indicated the density in the area needed to be reduced, Griesemer said. The city began implementing portions of the plan with three rezoning bills passed in 1998; these bills are the second in a series that will contain a total of nine bills for rezoning.

The effort to rezone the area is being carried out in hopes that a number of the area's abandoned commercial buildings will be torn down and that single-family residences will be built there instead.

"It is the hope that when the property is rezoned, the old commercial buildings, many of which are boarded up and have been for some time, will come down. The neighborhood is working to rebuild itself, and those buildings are just sitting there empty," Griesemer said.

If a business is located in one of those buildings, it will be a legal nonconforming use once the property is rezoned.

"For going businesses, the commercial use will become a legal nonconforming use; the commonly used term is grandfathered," Griesemer said.

The grandfathering stays with the property, so if that property is sold, the nonconforming use will still be allowed. If the property is destroyed, such as by fire, then the grandfathered use is no longer valid, and the property will have to be used for a single-family residence, Griesemer said.

Another legal nonconforming use in the newly zoned single-family residential area is that of a duplex or apartment house. Because of the city's zoning code, a duplex or apartment complex will be allowed to rebuild if it is destroyed, Griesemer said.

Though the zoning in the area will all be single-family, where some of it was limited business to permit the "mom and pop kinds of grocery stores and corner businesses," certain other commercial uses are encouraged under the new zoning, Griesemer said.

"We want to try to use some of these empty, boarded buildings, and one way to do that is to encourage certain types of commercial applications as conditional uses under the new zoning," Griesemer said.

Such uses include barber and beauty shops, day care, dry cleaning and laundry, gift stores, or studios for art, dancing or photography.

One property, at the corner of Grant and Mt.Vernon, will be left out of the single-family zoning change at the property owner's request. City Council Jan. 4 amended the third of the three council bills to allow that property to be excluded from the zoning change. That third bill, which was also amended to correct the error in legal description of the property, will be voted on at the council's Jan. 18 meeting.

In other action, the council held a first reading on a bill to conduct a feasibility study for a parking structure to be used by city and county employees in the government plaza, the area along Boonville and Central where the city offices and a number of county offices are located.

The study would cost about $9,500, and the study must be conducted in order to apply for a grant to assist with the cost of such a parking structure. The study will be conducted by the Corradino Group if the bill passes council.

Council also conducted a first reading on a bill that would require rabies vaccinations for cats and ferrets in the city limits of Springfield. An area veterinarian and Harold Bengsch, director of health for the city, spoke in favor of such a measure, saying it could reduce the number of rabies cases in the city overall.

Councilman Gary Gibson moved to remove a resolution dealing with a second industrial park in Springfield from the table, but the motion failed. A task force is set to begin meeting to discuss the industrial park issue further.

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