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The house at 1325 S. Maryland Ave. has been razed, but future development is in limbo due to the administrative delay.
SBJ photo by Wes Hamilton
The house at 1325 S. Maryland Ave. has been razed, but future development is in limbo due to the administrative delay.

City Beat: Council denies housing appeal in Phelps Grove

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Springfield City Council on Jan. 14 unanimously denied an appeal for new housing in the Phelps Grove neighborhood.

Property owner Mark Hunter’s plan to build four houses on a third of an acre was rejected due to the current administrative delay in the Phelps Grove Urban Conservation District. Council put the 180-day moratorium into effect Nov. 5, 2018, so the over 20-year-old Phelps Grove Neighborhood Plan and Urban Conservation District ordinance can be updated to deal with development issues, according to council documents.

Hunter already razed a home at 1325 S. Maryland Ave. to make way for his plans.

Hunter intended to split the tract into four lots for the 1,700-square-foot single-family homes with detached two-car garages, according to city documents.

“Hopefully, we come to some sort of compromise that would mitigate the unfortunate situation with Mr. Hunter, but still maintain the integrity of the neighborhood,” said Councilman Mike Schilling, who made the motion to deny the appeal.

Hunter received a demolition permit to tear down the existing structure on Oct. 23, but when he went to apply for a building permit on Nov. 15, the delay already was in place.

“Nobody told me anything. I’ve got another house in the neighborhood. I was never notified of any of this,” Hunter said.

The four building permits were denied Nov. 20 by Building Development Services Director Harlan Hill. Hunter appealed to Planning & Development Director Mary Lilly Smith on Nov. 27 and was denied on Dec. 10. Four days later, he appealed to City Manager Jason Gage, who denied the request on Dec. 20. Finally, he brought the appeal to council.

Hunter told council members he received assurance from Hill that he would be able to progress with his housing project in conversations that took place before the administrative delay was approved.

“If the demolition permit was done prior to the moratorium, the conversations with Mr. Hill were done prior to the moratorium. So at the time Mr. Hill conveyed that information, he was doing exactly as he should have done as far as the information he provided,” Councilman Craig Hosmer said, before voting against the appeal.

Smith cited two goals of the neighborhood plan – maintaining its single-family character and preserving existing housing stock – as additional reasons Hunter’s appeal was denied. Four neighborhood members spoke in opposition of the project.

“The four skinny houses that have been proposed are out of character and an eyesore to the neighborhood,” Phelps Grove Neighborhood Association President Eric Pauly said. “Additionally, the clear-cutting of old-growth trees from the property and the neighborhood is a blight that will take more than 100 years to recover from.”

Pauly said three houses similar to Hunter’s proposal were built on Florence Avenue, which do not fit the character of the neighborhood. Given the proximity to Missouri State University, Phelps Grove residents are concerned the new housing also would invite the student rental population.

The association requested the moratorium to address parking, land use and design standards in the neighborhood. It is scheduled to be removed in early May.

Cherry pocket neighborhood
The redevelopment plan for an East Cherry Street pocket neighborhood was approved 6-3.

On a half-acre at 1361-1365 E. Cherry St., Say You Can LLC plans to invest $1.4 million to develop six attached, single-unit residential dwellings around a central courtyard.

The Rountree neighborhood parcel has two vacant houses built in 1920, which were the focal point of council debate due to blight status requests on both properties for 65 percent tax abatement. The development incentive was approved with the vote.

Say You Can is run by Kelly Byrne in partnership with Springfield native and NBA player Anthony Tolliver. Another of Byrne’s companies, 311 S. Hampton LLC, owns the property, according to Greene County assessor records.

Through the city’s new workable program, approved in March last year, the redevelopment plan may qualify for partial real property tax abatement based on half of the assessed value of new construction or rehabilitation for 10 years, according to city documents.

The workable plan is a program for Chapter 99 tax abatements for redevelopment plans submitted through the Land Clearance Redevelopment Authority.

“This is the first plan of this type since we approved the workable plan, which was long overdue in addressing use of tax credits for blighted areas,” Councilman Tom Prater said. “I’m afraid if we don’t approve this, we send a message to people who are willing to put their capital at risk in helping us fix the problem of sustainable housing.”

Councilman Richard Ollis agreed.

“There’s a scorecard the developer has to go through, and the project is scored how beneficial it is to the neighborhood, community and if it meets certain criteria,” Ollis said.

The pocket neighborhood plan accumulated 65 out of 100 points.

With the score, 35 percent of the abated taxes and payment in lieu of taxes go back to the taxing districts, Ollis said.

According to city documents, tax revenue over a 10-year span would be reduced by $16,709 with the affected taxing jurisdictions realizing a net positive impact of $22,250.

In his opposition, Hosmer said approving the redevelopment plan would send the wrong message to homeowners.

“What we’re doing by allowing blight, when staff recommends we not allow blight, is encouraging people to let their property become deteriorated,” Hosmer said. “Once it becomes deteriorated, the city rewards them with tax abatement. That makes absolutely no sense.”

Hosmer said the costs to tear down both houses would be roughly $20,000.

“They’re not remediating blight, we’re going to give them thousands and thousands of taxpayer dollars to tear down two houses,” Hosmer said.

Short-term rentals
Council carried the conversation of short-term rentals into 2019, by discussing two bills related to Airbnb-type properties.

The original council bill was tabled until Jan. 28, when a substitute bill introduced in November is slated for a vote.

The substitute bill, which was approved by the Planning and Zoning Commission on Dec. 6, revises the Type 1 definition, implements a grace period for the density limitation and clarifies noncompliant short-term rentals are a violation of the ordinance if advertised on a third-party intermediary.

Proposals to Type 2 listings restrict locations to one per eight houses on each side of a block and require consent by 55 percent of adjacent property owners.

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