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City Beat: Developer seeks blight status for Rountree ‘pocket neighborhood’

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Springfield City Council on Dec. 10 held a public hearing for a so-called pocket neighborhood in Rountree that would establish a community within a community.

Council is being asked to approve a redevelopment plan and blight report for the East Cherry Pocket Neighborhood Redevelopment Area. The properties in question for blight are 1361 and 1365 E. Cherry St., located on half an acre north of Cherry Street and Fremont Avenue.

Two vacant residential structures are present, according to city documents, and pictures reviewed by council members showed deterioration on both: foundation cracks, rust, broken windows and electrical problems.

The blight report and redevelopment plan was submitted by Say You Can LLC, which 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 properties, according to Greene County assessor’s records.

The pocket neighborhood is not the developer’s first attempt to build in Rountree.

Say You Can, known for senior and student housing developments, last year proposed a $5 million mixed-use development with lofts above retail along Cherry Street at Pickwick Avenue, but council turned it down amid a moratorium on rezonings in Rountree. The moratorium ended in December 2017.

Byrne’s latest plans call on the demolition of the two vacant buildings and construction of six attached, two-story single-unit residential townhouses around a central courtyard.

The project is slated to cost $1.4 million, with Say You Can investing an estimated 25 percent equity, according to city documents. A loan would cover the remaining costs, said Sarah Kerner, the city’s director of economic development. 

Several Rountree residents at the meeting expressed concerns about parking.

Lisa Lewis lives directly behind the 1361 E. Cherry St. property.

“There are six designated parking places for this development, but yet you could have up to 12 people living there,” she said. “I know that these developers are usually geared toward student housing, so I just have to assume that’s what we’ll have there.”

Council is scheduled to vote Jan. 14 on the development proposal.

Another proposed pocket neighborhood in the city has not yet gained traction. Brad Erwin of Paragon Architecture LLC introduced his 15 single-family home development plan for Oak Grove Commons in January 2017, but he has yet to start construction in the east central Springfield neighborhood. Erwin said he’s run into complications meeting storm water regulations.

P&Z reverses on rentals
Council voted 8-1 to establish a 120-day suspension of the zoning ordinance prohibiting short-term rentals. The lone dissenting vote was Councilman Craig Hosmer.

The suspension gives council time to consider both a tabled bill and a substitute bill, which will come before them on Jan. 14. The suspension gives some relief for the current short-term rental operators, which are operating without legal oversight.

In related action ahead of the December council meeting, the city’s Planning and Zoning Commission changed its vote after reviewing the remanded bill.

The commissioners on Dec. 6 voted 5-3 in favor of the substitute bill, with Dee Ogilvy, Natalie Broekhoven and Britton Jobe in opposition. Previously, the P&Z Commission voted unanimously against short-term rental recommendations regarding location restrictions, permit costs, a protest period and certificates of occupancy.

Short-term rental property owners were operating illegally under city code, and the suspension gives city officials more time to regulate after spending most of 2018 debating solutions.

Council tabled the original short-term rental ordinance on Nov. 19 and remanded the substitute bill to P&Z at the same meeting.

P&Z Commissioner Cameron Rose changed his vote to yes after hearing the substitute bill.

“There’s been real progress made here,” he said. “I would acknowledge there’s probably some issues that we could probably spend the next year debating and trying different things before we implemented anything, but to my feeling on it, I think we’re close enough that we can try.”

Rose said the current situation is not acceptable and he wants to give guidance to those who want to operate short-term rentals.

On remaining opposed, Commissioner Jobe said the bill has made some progress, but “in other ways it’s gone backwards.”

The proposed changes in the substitute bill were:

  • allowing unlimited rentals for Type 1 properties with an accessory apartment or carriage located at a primary structure with owner present;
  • replacing the 500-foot separation requirement with a density requirement for Type 2 properties, which would limit the type to no more than one per eight residential structures on one side of the street between two intersections, and none allowed on a block with fewer than four structures;
  • a 30-day grace period to implicate the density limitation for Type 2 properties;
  • changing the protest period to a consent provision of 55 percent of adjacent property owners to Type 2 properties; and
  • adding clarification on advertising or promoting a noncompliant short-term rental on a third-party intermediary, like Airbnb, as an ordinance violation.

“I’ve got real concerns with the 55 percent sort of reverse protest that appears to have no precedent in our city code,” Jobe said. “I can tell you there’s three nonstarters in here for me. The first is what I just mentioned about the 55 percent requirement. The second is the neighborhood meetings for a Type 2, and the third is a business license for a Type 1.”

Jobe agreed that short-term rentals need regulation, but he doubted whether the substitute bill would address the concerns brought to the commission.

Other council action

  • Council annexed 13 acres at 3192, 3194 and 3196 E. Farm Road 188, south of the Mercy Orthopedic Hospital, while rezoning the parcels to a general retail district from general and agriculture districts. The applicant, One Eighty-Eighty LLC, plans to build a dental office, according to city documents.
  • Council rezoned 5 acres in the 2700 block of South Jefferson Avenue off of Sunset Street intersection to a low-density multifamily district from limited business and office districts for a multifamily development with a maximum of 55 units. The applicant is Empire Mortgage Co. Inc.

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