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City Beat: Republic Road hotel pulled following council vote

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City beat from the Oct. 3 City Council meeting: For minutes and schedule, visit
A developer proposing an $8 million hotel in the 1800 block of East Republic Road is scrapping those plans following the Oct. 3 City Council meeting.

Earl Steinert, owner of two Hampton Inns in Springfield, said the project is no longer feasible after council rejected a change to the district’s floor-area ratio that would have allowed for 30 additional rooms. Nearby residents had strongly vocalized their opposition to the project.

“Eight million dollars right out the window – with the city of Springfield’s economy, that’s amazing to me. But that’s what it is,” said Larry Phillips, owner of Pellham-Phillips Architects and Engineers Inc. who represented Steinert at the bill’s first reading and would have designed the hotel.

Steinert was under contract to purchase 4.74 vacant acres from Patterson-Thomas LLC to develop the Hampton Inn, according to listing agent Rhett Smillie of Keller Williams Realty.

“I could still build an 80-unit property there, but I don’t think that’s economically feasible,” Steinert said. “It’s very surprising that the city didn’t want the additional revenue generated by both the hotel/motel and sales taxes on the property.”

Steinert, who’s now searching for another site, said he thought the Ravenwood neighbors didn’t understand that his hotel would not have been a full-service property similar to the recently opened Hilton Garden Inn, down the street at 4155 S. Nature Center Way, and it would have generated less traffic by comparison.

Smillie said the sale of the property was contingent upon the removal of the restriction.

“The neighborhood opposition is the only thing that killed this deal, and traditionally, the NIMBY defense – not in my backyard – doesn’t hold any water,” Smillie said. “This project met all the zoning requirements. The developer conformed in every way to the requirements, and (Steinert) has unjustly been denied.”

City staff recommended approval, and members of the Planning and Zoning Commission voted unanimously to approve the change.

Only Councilman Thomas Bieker voted to approve a change to the floor-area ratio. Seven council members voted against the bill; Councilman John Rush was absent.

At the bill’s first reading Aug. 22, several Ravenwood residents spoke out against the plans, saying the five-story hotel would tower over their homes. They said there were no objections to a zoning change to a general retail district when the previous owner had intended to build a strip center or two-story office building on the site. Those plans never came to fruition.

Phillips and Smillie said because a traffic study was never conducted by the previous owners, a more restrictive floor-area ratio was left in place. The bill, according to city staff, would have made the site’s ratio consistent with other general retail districts.

Councilman Scott Bailes said several neighbors contacted him opposing the project, so he didn’t see why any restrictions should be lifted.

“I traditionally support economic development … but I don’t believe it’s right in this particular instance,” said Councilman Jerry Compton, siding with the neighbors.

Meanwhile, council unanimously passed a bill that lifts bulk plane requirements on developments in commercial, office or general retail districts if they are adjacent to residential multifamily districts – a move that could allow a proposed hotel near St. John’s Hospital to butt up against apartments on South Florence Avenue.

Civil engineer Derek Lee of Lee Engineering & Associates LLC, a representative of landowners working to develop a five-story hotel across from St. John’s National Avenue campus, has said a move to lift building height restrictions near multifamily and townhouse residential districts has nothing to do with the project he’s fronting.

With the vote coming on the heels of council rejecting the bill related to a Hampton Inn, real estate agent Smillie said the bulk plane passage amounts to a double standard.

“It’s zoned exactly the same. Why is it OK for those guys to build a five-story hotel there? It doesn’t make any sense,” Smillie said.

Gordon Elliott, owner of the Heatherwood Apartments on South Florence and a hotel developer, had opposed the bill at its first reading, saying it would allow the planned hotel to overshadow his apartments.

Springfield Planning & Development Director Ralph Rognstad said the purpose of the proposal was to expand options for developments along commercial corridors.

Previously, city codes put height and distance restrictions on commercial developments adjacent to residential districts. For example, in an office district next to a residential district, structures could not exceed 35 feet high and had to remain below a 45-degree angle as measured from the district boundary line. With the ordinance approved, the city will now enforce current restrictions only in single-family residential or town house districts.

Plans to change the zoning on part of the nearly two-acre site across from St. John’s were unanimously approved by the Planning & Zoning Commission at the public hearing on Sept. 29. Bills tied to those plans are scheduled to receive their first reading at the Oct. 17 council meeting.  

Stormwater lawsuit
The city of Springfield filed a lawsuit Sept. 30 against the Environmental Protection Agency challenging its new rules related to stormwater runoff.

The suit questions the validity of the EPA’s recently established rules governing Total Maximum Daily Load limits of pollutants into Wilson’s, Jordan and Pearson creeks, which the city believes are unattainable, according to City Manager Greg Burris. Burris said no pollutants were named in the new TMDL rules, but rather, the new rules would substantially decrease stormwater flows into the creeks. According to the suit, waters in those creeks are said to have impaired macroinvertebrate communities, and the EPA is calling for a 30 percent to 40 percent reduction in stormwater to restore the aquatic insect communities.

The suit claims these requirements would cost the city millions of dollars.

“This would put an unnecessary financial burden on citizens,” Burris said in the city manager’s report to Council.

Springfield and Columbia are two of a handful of cities where the EPA is enforcing new stormwater runoff rules, Burris said, adding that Columbia also has filed suit. Two bills were introduced at the Oct. 3 meeting that would extend brownfields cleanup efforts in the West Meadows area of center city. Mayor Jim O’Neal said this work should help remove pollutants in the creeks.[[In-content Ad]]


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