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City Beat: Council creates Grant Avenue Parkway zoning district


Roughly 72 acres in district are rezoned for $26 million project

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Springfield City Council unanimously voted at its June 28 meeting to establish an overlay zoning district for the $26.2 million Grant Avenue Parkway project.

Council additionally approved the rezoning of roughly 72 acres, which comprise more than 220 parcels, into the new zoning district.

City officials previously told council the zoning district has six subdistricts and housing is allowed in all of them. Use is regulated by design, property limitations and location. Parking is not allowed in front yards and is not required for nonresidential uses. Detached signs are allowed in limited areas, and construction of commercial parking lots won’t be permitted anywhere other than subdistrict A, which is an area south of College Street and north of Pershing Street.

City staff and the Planning and Zoning Commission previously recommended both bills for passage, according to city documents.

“I’m very supportive of this project,” councilperson Richard Ollis said at the meeting. “I’m also supportive of the overlay district requiring more stringent standards. That’s going to be a good, positive thing.”

The zoning district comes three months after the Grant Avenue Parkway Corridor Plan was adopted by council as part of the city’s comprehensive plan.

The corridor plan area covers roughly 1.3 miles of Grant Avenue between College and Catalpa streets. That includes areas within 500 feet east and west of the Grant Avenue centerline.

The Grant Avenue Parkway project is designed to create a greenway trail system and transportation improvements along a 3.3-mile stretch of Grant Avenue between Sunshine and Walnut streets.

A blight study suggested at council’s June 14 meeting by Andrew Doolittle, co-owner of property management company Everett Homes LLC, appears to be gaining traction. Doolittle said if the city issued the study for the Grant Avenue area, it could incentivize better development projects, as opposed to “spot blighting,” according to past Springfield Business Journal reporting.

Ollis said he’s interested in sponsoring a bill to authorize the blight study. Randall Whitman, principal city planner, said the proposed cost is yet to be determined. Springfield Economic Development Director Sarah Kerner told council June 14 the city spent roughly $100,000 for its last blight study in 2017 for a Kearney Street corridor plan.

“Frankly, we’re asking whoever decides to develop in this area to develop to a higher standard, both architecturally and with the design standards we have in place,” Ollis said. “I think it’s only appropriate we at least take a look at this and consider what that might entail.”

City Manager Jason Gage said the blight study could be valuable for future Grant Avenue developments.

“It’s a bigger area and it’s about a bigger impact,” he said. “There may be some advantages to eliminating that question out of each parcel and already having that laid out.”

The Grant Avenue Parkway project is funded by a $21 million federal grant announced in 2019 and $5.2 million in matching funds from the city. Construction is expected to begin in 2022 with completion estimated in 2026.

Health grants
Council approved the acceptance of three grants connected with the coronavirus pandemic for the Springfield-Greene County Park Board and the Springfield-Greene County Health Department. The federal grant award of $434,045 for the Park Board comes from funds through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act. City officials said the money will cover reimbursement for salaries, operating supplies, safety items, sanitation and signage.

The two grants for the Health Department are $197,913 from the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services and $35,000 from the Missouri Foundation for Health. Both grants will be used for COVID-19 vaccination outreach and educational services, said Health Department Assistant Director Jon Mooney.

The Health Department has held around 20 outreach events in six Springfield neighborhoods over the last couple of weeks, Mooney said at the meeting. He added roughly 3,300 people were vaccinated in Greene County during the prior week.

“We’re making progress; it’s just at a pace much slower than we’d like to see,” he said.

“As vaccine is our long-term solution, we will continue to focus on this, and it will continue to be our priority.”

According to Health Department data from July 1, the seven-day average for local COVID-19 cases is 126.86, and there are currently 177 hospitalizations. Around 38.7% of the Greene County population has been fully vaccinated. That nearly equals the state’s current 39.1% vaccination rate but trails the national total of 47%, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Application attempt
Council gave city staff the green light to apply for a Youth Homeless Demonstration Program grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. Bob Atchley, senior city planner, told council the grant will be awarded to applicants in two rounds this year as none was distributed in 2020 amid the pandemic.

The grant, if awarded, is used to implement a coordinated community plan to end youth homelessness, Atchley said. Springfield submitted three applications in past years but didn’t get approved. However, he said the 42 communities that have previously received the grant are ineligible for future funding.

“Really, it could be huge because the minimum award is $1 million,” he said, noting the average award in recent years is around $3 million. “I feel pretty good about this year because they expect to fund approximately 50 applications.”

At the meeting, Amanda Stadler, coordinator of the continuum of care at Community Partnership of the Ozarks Inc., said current point-in-time counts indicate on any given night in Springfield, roughly 50 youth ages 13-24 are staying in an emergency shelter or sleeping outside.

“We know that the number of youth that are unsafely or unstably housed in our community is much higher than that,” she said.

Other action items

  • Council unanimously passed several bills that approved collective bargaining agreements negotiated between the city and union groups. The groups are International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, Local No. 753; International Association of Fire Fighters, Southern Missouri Professional Fire Fighters Local 152; and the Springfield Police Officers’ Association, Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 22. The SPOA agreement increases police officer starting pay to $22.12 per hour, or $46,009 annually, from $19.47 per hour, or $40,497, according to a news release. Additionally, merit step increases averaging 4% were approved for all eligible SPOA members.
  • Council approved the creation of the Department of Economic Vitality, which formally separates the current economic development function from the Planning and Development Department. The purpose is to eliminate any confusion regarding the facilitative and recruitment role of economic development from the Planning and Development Department’s regulatory duties applied through local zoning laws, according to city documents. The new department’s creation includes the addition of a new position for director of economic vitality. City officials said the budgeted cost for fiscal 2022 is $163,300 for salary and benefits.

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