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City Beat: Housing development inadvertently nixed

Overlooked code provision means rezoning fails and developer must restart

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A project delay requested by Springfield City Council inadvertently caused the de facto denial of a Doling neighborhood housing development.

At the Feb. 21 meeting, Springfield City Council asked developer Mike Stalzer to voluntarily host a second neighborhood meeting for the mixed multifamily and single-family housing development he had proposed for the area of 739 W. Talmage St.

The required neighborhood meeting for the project coincided with a severe cold snap on Dec. 22, and Councilmember Monica Horton felt the weather prevented some residents from attending the meeting and sharing their concerns.

Stalzer did host a second meeting at council’s request.

However, City Attorney Rhonda Lewsader informed council at the March 20 meeting of a provision she had discovered that day while preparing for possible questions.

The original public hearing on the bill was held on Feb. 6 and declared closed on that date, Lewsader explained. However, city code Section 36-405F states that if council fails to act within 30 days following the conclusion of a public hearing on a preliminary planned development – by March 8, in this case – the development is denied. 

“There is no action that sitting council can take this evening regarding the application for preliminary planned development,” Lewsader said.

Lewsader said the process would have to start over, including a review by the Planning & Zoning Commission and another neighborhood meeting. Even protest petitions collected by neighborhood residents would have to be redone.

City Manager Jason Gage said the question of rescheduling a neighborhood meeting came up in the last meeting and city staff had to review city code on the spot.

“As you recall, we were trying to, in essence, dance in the meeting to try to address the question,” he said.

He added that the code is different for a typical rezoning than for a planned development like Stalzer’s proposal.

“I don’t know why,” he said. “And to me, it should be the same; but it is different, and, yes, we missed that area in the code.”

Gage offered an apology to council and the developer on behalf of city staff.

He added that council has been talking about the urgency of a city code update so that regulations match up with the city’s comprehensive plan, and part of that update is to review processes.

“There’s no reason to have small nuances in places that perhaps create inequities,” Gage said.

Horton said that while the city considers code changes, it should look into provisions for canceling neighborhood meetings and allowing for them to be rescheduled if there is a situation such as inclement weather.

Reached by Springfield Business Journal after the meeting, Stalzer declined to comment. It is unclear whether he will propose the project again.

Ironically, the rezoning was not even necessary for the development in its current form, according to Stalzer, who said at the Feb. 6 council meeting that the overall density is five units per acre, which is within the density allowed in a single-family residential zone.

Stalzer has already adapted his original plans, reducing the new development from 42 townhomes to 22 single-family dwellings. The development also included the transformation of a gymnasium owned by Baptist Temple of Springfield into a 33-unit apartment building.

ARPA projects begin
The city submitted numerous applications to the Missouri Department of Natural Resources for federal American Rescue Plan Act funding provided through the state’s Water Infrastructure Community Grant Program.

“I’m happy to report that the city was successful in 14 of these applications, totaling near $17 million,” said Chris Dunnaway, principal engineer in stormwater management for the city.

Dunnaway introduced the first council bill to accept these grant funds into the budget, and council approved the $608,000 request for stormwater improvements on Delmar Street and South Roanoke Avenue.

Dunnaway said the project will include the relocation and reconstruction of a stormwater box culvert that collapsed in 2022, for a total project cost of $900,000.

Councilmember Andrew Lear noted the city has stormwater problems in many of its neighborhoods, and he asked how the $17 million worth of improvements would be rolled out.

Dunnaway said the ARPA grants through MDNR have strict timelines and must be executed by the end of 2024.

“So, we have just under two years, and all of the ARPA funds have to be spent by the end of 2026,” he said. “But more of the time-critical path will be getting these agreements in place with DNR.”

Council accepted the funds, and they also heard the first reading of a bill that would allocate $1.53 million for the city to begin design work for six of the remaining 13 projects that will receive the $17 million in ARPA funding.

Dan Smith, director of Public Works, said the allocation would come from the 1/4-cent capital improvement sales tax and the 1/8-cent transportation sales tax and would be used to fund the design and acquire right-of-way acquisition for six projects receiving $6.2 million in ARPA funds.

“To meet the deadline that has been placed on these ARPA funds, we need to begin the design work now,” he said.

The goal is to have the projects ready to bid and be under contract by the end of 2024, Smith said.

The six projects are Scenic Avenue between Catalpa and Sunshine streets, Hilton Avenue between Mount Vernon and Walnut streets, Pacific Street between Colgate and Golden avenues, Clifton Avenue between Kearney and High streets, Nichols Street between Hutchinson and Dickerson avenues, and Scenic Avenue between Olive and Catalpa streets.

Smith said the improvements will include the addition of curb and gutter, stormwater inlets, storm pipe and sidewalks. Council will vote on the design allocation at its April 3 meeting.

Other action items

  • The rezoning of nearly an acre was approved at the intersection of North Farmer Avenue and North Scott Street to residential townhouse district from single-family residential. Horton said the block in question, located near the new York Elementary School, is completely transforming.

“It’s going to attract a lot of folks to that particular area – in an area that really needs it,” she said.

  • Council accepted $400,000 in an MDNR Section 319 Nonpoint Source Pollution Grant for the Westport Branch Green Infrastructure Project, which will address pollution on the Westport Branch of Wilson’s Creek near West Chestnut Expressway.
  • Surface Transportation Block Grant funds from the Missouri Highways and Transportation Commission were accepted for two projects: $451,000 for the intersection of Kansas Expressway and Walnut Lawn Street and $411,000 for Kansas Expressway and Sunset Street. The work will improve turn lanes, add new signals and provide better sidewalk connectivity at the intersections. The city’s half will be funded partly through STBG funds (80% of match) and partly through the 1/8-cent transportation sales tax (20%).


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