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City Beat: Galloway rezoning to be on November ballot

Neighborhood association president chastises council

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 A Galloway Village rezoning referendum will be on the Nov. 8 ballot for a citywide vote by order of the Missouri Southern District of Appeals.

Springfield City Council approved an ordinance at its regular meeting June 27 to submit the question to voters about whether to rezone property in the 3500 block of South Lone Pine Avenue.

Council voted in September 2020 to rezone the 4.2 acres of property from single-family residential, general retail and limited business district to a planned development designation.

However, Galloway Village residents objected following a public meeting on the development in May 2020. They cited safety, traffic, density and run-off concerns, as well as damage to the character of the neighborhood.

In December 2020, council voted to hold a citywide election on the rezoning issue, but Elevation Enterprises LLC, the entity that sought the zoning change in order to build a mixed-use apartment and office building, sued the city to block the ballot measure. Greene County Circuit Judge David Jones ruled in favor of Elevation Enterprises, and that is the decision that was overturned on appeal on June 9.

City Attorney Rhonda Lewsader told council the earliest date for the city to call an election with the required 10-week notice is Nov. 8, and ballot language will be unchanged from the original proposal.

Melanie Bach, president of the Galloway Village Neighborhood Association, chastised council at the meeting for its actions and said Lewsader and other city staff acted “reprehensibly.”

Mayor Ken McClure twice directed Bach to keep her comments on the topic of the ordinance to amend the election date from the December 2020 ordinance.

“I do believe the date should be amended so that the city charter can be defended and so that we can avoid what the appeals court said was a cancerous anomaly that was the city’s failure to defend that charter,” Bach said.

She added the city’s residents deserve a more honest approach to city government.

Elevation Enterprises did not respond to an interview request from Springfield Business Journal.

Rental debate
Two members of council voted against allowing a short-term rental on the south side, signaling a possible hardening toward Airbnb- and Vrbo-type units in the city. 

There are 183 licensed short-term rental properties in Springfield, said Daniel Neal, senior planner, at the council meeting.

Those are the licensed short-term rentals. At the June 13 meeting, Springfield Convention & Visitors Bureau Inc. President Tracy Kimberlin told council the actual number of such properties was approaching 375 in May. 

At issue on June 27 was a house at 2209 E. Swallow St., located south of the intersection of Republic Road and James River Freeway. 

Ed Gibson, the owner of the property for 20 years, raised his children in the house. He told council he had been leasing out the house as a long-term rental but wanted to switch it to a short-term rental to gain more control over the property. He also noted standards for short-term rentals are higher in general, but said he would continue to use the house as a long-term rental if council voted down his request. 

The measure was approved by a 6-2 vote, with members Craig Hosmer and Abe McGull voting no and one council member, Heather Hardinger, absent from the meeting. 

There is a requirement in the city’s land development code that Type 2 short-term rental applicants must obtain signatures from 55% of neighboring property owners in support of their application. Gibson obtained 50% of the necessary signatures – two out of four people – falling short of the 55% margin. 

Neal explained that two of these owners are in the process of divorcing one another, and one has moved out and was not accessible, but the other gave permission by signature. 

Another neighbor submitted an objection, while a fourth did not respond. 

Council may grant a permit by resolution for applicants when the necessary signatures are not acquired. 

Council weighed whether the application met the spirit of the law, but that’s when Hosmer raised his objection. 

“It may meet the spirit of the law, but our job is to enforce what the law is,” he said. 

Hosmer broadened the issue to discuss larger issues of Springfield being a city with the majority of its residents renting rather than owning their homes. 

“As you have more and more Vrbos or vacation rentals in the city of Springfield, you have fewer and fewer homes that can be available for home ownership,” he said. “We have a city that has 60% of our people living in rental properties. We keep doing things that are contrary to what’s good for our city.” 

He added short-term rentals do not pay the city’s lodging tax, as hotels and motels do. 

On June 13, Kimberlin told council then that if the 375 short-term rentals had remitted lodging taxes, both the city and the CVB would have been $25,000 richer in May alone, and through May this year, both entities have lost $84,000 each.

McGull also objected to the Swallow Street application, but on different grounds than Hosmer. 

“I’ve always been opposed to this type of rental in neighborhoods that were designed to be neighborhoods,” he said. “We’ve turned them into motels and hotels. A lot of these neighborhoods have covenants that restrict that.” 

He added that neighborhoods could sue council for violating covenants. 

Other action items

  • Plans for the city’s use of $3.8 million in Home-American Rescue Plan Act funding were approved. The money will go toward emergency shelter and affordable housing to address issues faced at the initial and end stages of moving people out of homelessness, according to city planners.
  • The city will apply for $4 million from the U.S. Department of Labor’s Growth Opportunities grant program, which is intended to prepare justice-involved youth for the workforce. It also will apply for $500,000 from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Brownfields Job Training grant program. That program aims to recruit, train and place unemployed and under-employed residents of solid and hazardous waste impacted communities with skills needed to obtain full-time work.
  • Council will vote July 11 on whether to accept a $5.4 million bid from Columbia-based Capital Paving & Construction LLC to move forward with the Republic Road and Campbell Avenue intersection improvement project. Five bids were received and were reasonably close to each other, according to Dan Smith, director of public works. This project would conclude the widening of Republic Road to five lanes across the city, and it would be completed with a combination of city, state and federal funds.

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