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At its July 25 meeting, Springfield City Council approved a zoning change but denied a conditional-use permit to allow drive-thru service, potentially scuttling 7 Brew Coffee’s plans to open a shop in the neighborhood across from Sunshine Elementary School.
Development group Reding Management LLC and Redec LLC, owned by Royce Reding, had sought passage of two ordinances at the meeting. The first, which was approved, changed the zoning of an acre of property in the 400 block of East Sunshine Street to a limited business district from single-family residential.
The other measure, which failed by an 8-1 vote, with Councilperson Richard Ollis dissenting, was for a conditional-use permit to allow drive-thru service. The 7 Brew was proposed as a three-lane, drive-thru coffee shop.
The developer had asked council to table the vote until its Aug. 8 meeting so that it could have an opportunity to evaluate some of the issues raised by residents of the Seminole/Holland neighborhood at the July 11 council meeting, when 21 people signed up to offer either concerns or support for the project.
Council chose not to acquiesce to the developer’s request and forged ahead with votes on both items.
Councilperson Matthew Simpson made a motion to remand the zoning change back to the Planning & Zoning Commission, though that body already declined to recommend the project on two previous occasions. The developer originally submitted a plan that the commission voted not to recommend, and then the developer resubmitted the plan with one change – the addition of 14 trees as a buffer between the proposed shop and the existing neighborhood – and was denied the second time.
Council voted 6-3 against Simpson’s motion to remand the zoning issue, with only Simpson, Andrew Lear and Heather Hardinger voting in favor. Council then immediately voted 7-2 in favor of rezoning the district, with council members Monica Horton and Craig Hosmer objecting.
Prior to the vote, Mayor Ken McClure expressed his support for the limited business district for the currently vacant property, located at the southeast corner of Sunshine Street and Jefferson Avenue with houses to the south and east. McClure noted it’s the most restrictive type of business zoning, which allows for compact, free-standing commercial centers as a transition into more intensive commercial areas, like the one beginning a couple blocks west on Sunshine.
Ollis agreed with the mayor. He said his own business is on Sunshine Street in a property that used to be a home, and the area is conducive to business.
Both McClure and Ollis brought up past council decisions that resulted in properties remaining vacant into the present day. For McClure, a unanimous vote against rezoning 1755 S. National Ave. to allow a house at the corner of Sunshine to be used as a bed and breakfast is one that he regrets.
“If I had a vote to take back, that would be the one that I would have taken back six years ago and voted differently,” he said.
Ollis said he regretted a similar decision at the corner of Battlefield Road and Lone Pine Avenue.
“We screwed that down very tightly as far as zoning goes,” he said. “That lot sits vacant today on one of the more desirable corners in our community.”
Resident concerns were on the mind of Councilperson Abe McGull, who said he had spoken to neighbors, and they had no problem with a limited business like a free-standing coffee shop; residents’ biggest concern was with having drive-thru pickup windows.
Lear said the applicant had appeared before P&Z twice, and that body had decisively turned the plan down.
“To me, they’ve had two bites of the Planning & Zoning apple,” Lear said.
Simpson said most of the concerning issues – its location across from an elementary school, extended hours of operation, excessive light and noise – were created not by the zoning issue but by the conditional use permit for a drive-thru.
Ollis expressed the concern that restricting zoning codes was counterproductive.
“What we’re really saying, I believe in this, is that we want that corner to be vacant and unproductive, and if that’s what we’re going to vote on tonight, I will certainly not support it. But I believe that’s what we’re doing by this initiative,” he said.
Hosmer offered an opposing view.
“Certainly, the counter to that argument is that we’re not doing things neighborhoods want,” he said.
He added that the property is not the right size for the proposed development.
“We turn ourselves into pretzels trying to think how we should help this developer,” Hosmer said. “We should help developers, but we should also listen to neighborhoods.”
A June 22-28 SBJ.net reader poll asked, “Do you support the development of a 7 Brew Coffee shop across from Sunshine Elementary School?”At publication time, 53% were in favor and 47% were opposed out of 649 votes.
A call to Reding seeking comment was not returned by press time.
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