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City Beat: Apartment owner fights proposed code changes

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City beat from the Sept. 19 city council meeting: For minutes and schedule, visit springfieldmo.gov/citycouncil
A bill was introduced at the Sept. 19 Springfield City Council meeting 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 any 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 only in 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 C. Arch Bay Co., 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 code restrictions were kept in place, the hotel would not be able to back up to the zoning line next to his apartments on Florence Avenue.

Civil engineer Derek Lee of Lee Engineering & Associates LLC, who has been hired by C. Arch Bay to complete site work for the proposed hotel and represent the company through the rezoning process, said the bill under consideration does not affect the hotel project.

“We have sufficient distance from the apartment complex to the south of us to where we don’t need any bulk plane change,” Lee said, adding that plans would be between 100 and 110 feet away from the zoning district line. “We didn’t request (code changes); we’re not going to benefit from them.”

Lee said city staff contacted after the council meeting to ask about the plans, and he informed them that the proposed changes would not impact the developer’s plans. Lee said he expected to talk about the plans in detail at the Sept. 29 hearing.

At the council meeting, 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.

Hampton Inn plans
Rognstad said the code changes would not affect a separate proposal to revise the city’s floor-area ratio allowing for the development of another proposed five-story hotel at the 1800 block of East Republic Road.

The bill tied to plans for a Hampton Inn on Republic Road was tabled by a 6-3 vote after a couple of council members learned there are no height restrictions in general retail districts, only bulk plane or distance restrictions from the zoning boundary line. If council does not increase the floor-area ratio for that proposed south-side hotel, developer Earl Steinert would only be able to build roughly 60 to 70 units of the 110 units he wants to build on the 4.74-acre property, Rognstad said.

O’Neal, who proposed tabling the measure prior to a vote for the second meeting in a row, said more information needed to be gathered to determine if it is possible to impose height restrictions on that development. Several residents of the Ravenwood neighborhood voiced opposition to the height of the proposed Hampton Inn during a first reading Aug. 22. At the Sept. 5 meeting, O’Neal proposed tabling the vote in the absence of Councilman Scott Bailes, who has fielded many questions from residents of his southeast Springfield zone.

City bond refinance
A resolution authorizing the city to move to recall two bonds tied to Jordan Valley Park construction in order to save roughly $100,000 in annual interest was unanimously passed by City Council members.

The initiative follows a bill that would have allowed the city to effectively refinance $11.8 million in bonds used for the development of Jordan Valley Park and save an estimated $200,000 per year through 2021. That measure was pulled during a November 2010 council meeting due to rising interest rates in the municipal bond market.

Finance Director Mary Mannix Decker said those interest rates have come down again, and reissuing those bonds would result in “significant savings” for the city. Decker said the resolution would allow the city to notify bondholders of its intentions.[[In-content Ad]]

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