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Planned sales tax projects include intersection improvements at Campbell Avenue and Walnut Lawn Street.
Photo courtesy Google Maps
Planned sales tax projects include intersection improvements at Campbell Avenue and Walnut Lawn Street.

City Beat: Council approves $22M in sales tax projects

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Springfield City Council on Jan. 27 unanimously approved $22 million in sales tax projects, laying the foundation for placemaking improvements.

With the decision, the Springfield Department of Public Works’ budget has been amended to allow it to appropriate funds for the city’s one-eighth-cent transportation sales tax.

Council had identified placemaking as a top legislative priority for 2020, and to meet that goal, funds from the sales tax have been designated for high-priority transportation projects.

“Your guidance in establishing the quality of place priority is the first trigger,” City Manager Jason Gage told council members before the vote.

The tax, which was reapproved in November 2019 by nearly 80% of voters, has a sunset of 20 years. Over the next four years, it’s expected to bring in $22 million, equating to the amended budget for Public Works.

With the budget increase, Public Works plans to tackle infrastructure projects identified last year by residents through a public survey and other efforts. Among them are intersection improvements at Campbell Avenue and Walnut Lawn Street, National Avenue and Division Street, Kansas Expressway and Walnut Lawn, and Kansas Expressway and Sunset Street, according to city documents.

At the time of the tax renewal vote last year, the projects carried a price tag of $10 million, led by $4.5 million in improvements at Campbell Avenue and Walnut Lawn and $2.8 million for new sidewalks and intersections along Central Street, according to past Springfield Business Journal reporting.

The remaining $12 million expected is earmarked for other improvements, ranging from street resurfacing to bridge repair and replacement.

Quality of place
To assist with placemaking, the city hired BRP Architects partner Tim Rosenbury to the new position of director of quality of place initiatives. He’s slated to leave the architecture firm and start March 2.

Rosenbury is expected to have a hand in the tax renewal projects that were presented to council for approval.

“As we bring Mr. Rosenbury on board, we obviously will look at those projects, but what we really want to do is also create a framework for vetting all of our capital improvement projects,” Gage told council.

Though his workload has yet to be fully identified, one project Rosenbury said he’ll be involved with is the Grant Avenue Parkway Trail Connection Project. The city late last year got the nod for a $21 million federal grant to connect downtown Springfield to the Wonders of Wildlife National Museum and Aquarium.

“We have the resources in the form of federal funding and the local match; we have the technical capability. We need the vision,” Rosenbury said after the council meeting.

He also expects to have a role in the city’s Jordan Creek daylighting project downtown.

“There will be other assignments and projects that come up, but essentially what I’m charged with is evaluating the quality of our public spaces,” he said. “The role is a collaborative one, working with other departments helping to infuse more design input, particularly as it relates to pedestrians and a unique sense of place – something that’s more distinctive and unique to Springfield.”

Jordan Creek grant
Council approved a resolution to apply for $300,000 in federal pass-through grant funds for the Renew Jordan Creek project.

The project to expose Jordan Creek between Boonville and Main avenues includes a naturalized stream channel, landscaped river banks and stormwater green infrastructure, according to city documents. The creek mostly runs underground throughout center city. It was covered with concrete in the 1920s to mitigate flooding, leading to the construction of the current box culverts between Boonville and Main, according to past SBJ reporting.

“If successful, this grant will be used to fund water quality enhancements, including components above and beyond the current project scope,” said Chris Dunnaway, principal engineer with the city.

The grant requires a 40% match, which Dunnaway said would come from the level property tax.

The grant from the Missouri Department of Natural Resources falls under Section 319 Nonpoint Source Pollution Grant Program. Grant funds under the program range from $50,000-$300,000 for up to a three-year duration, according to the state DNR website.

At the Nov. 18 council meeting, the first phase of the Jordan Creek daylighting project was presented, and Dunnaway said at the time it’s estimated to cost $6.8 million with funding coming from the 2017 Level Property Tax.

Rezoning cases
Council voted unanimously to rezone 17 acres to general retail at 3525 E. Battlefield Road, on the northeast corner of the U.S. Highway 65 interchange.

Property owner Lee McLean III of McLean Enterprises Inc. said plans are underway to sell the land to an unnamed buyer. He declined to comment further. 

The vote also established a conventional overlay district and prohibits convenience stores and 24-hour service stations to purchase the land. 

Kyle McGinnis, senior city planner who filed the rezoning request, said he was unaware of the potential buyer.

“The applicant ... will have to go through the city’s predevelopment review process prior to the issuance of building permits, so a more concrete set of tenants will become available with time,” he said.

Requests for comment from neighboring businesses Justice Jewelers Inc. and Croley Insurance and Financial Inc. were not returned by press time.

Another rezoning request was approved 6-3 after council heard public pushback during the first reading in January. Applicant Jefferey Ballard requested the zoning change of 3.6 acres at 2521 S. Holland Ave. to a low-density multifamily district from single-family residential. Area residents had opposed the rezoning due to flooding in the area, greenway preservation and traffic concerns. Before the vote, Councilman Matthew Simpson believed the plan would maintain the greenway system in the area.

“The proposal would preserve the 80-foot stream buffer, tree buffer that exists on the north edge of the stream on this property,” he said. “It would include an easement granted to the greenways to improve the connection over south to the greenways off of Holland and the conditional overlay would make the density consistent with the townhouses to the west.”

Simpson said traffic concerns would be split between Holland Avenue and Downing Street after speaking with city traffic engineers.

Other council members felt differently.

“When people bought their homes in this neighborhood, this was zoned single-family residential,” Councilman Craig Hosmer said. “If we don’t listen to neighborhoods and neighbors on what they want in their neighborhoods – if the city is just telling them any developer can make any change they want – I don’t think that’s proper.”

Hosmer, Mike Schilling and Phyllis Ferguson voted in opposition.

“The people in the neighborhood are overwhelmingly against this change,” Hosmer said before the vote. “I’ve probably gotten more emails on this than most any other residential change that we’ve had.”

Reporter Kathryn Hardison contributed.

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