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Council candidates discuss development, compromise

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by Karen E. Culp

SBJ Staff

Springfield will elect a mayor and three representatives to City Council during the April 6 election.

Mayor Lee Gannaway is running unopposed for his third two-year term in office. Zone 2 and general seats C and D are contested, while Ralph Manley, who now serves on the Planning and Zoning Commission, is running unopposed for the Zone 3 seat.

In the Zone 2 race, incumbent Shelia Wright faces Thomas Long. Genearal Seat C incumbent Teri Hacker faces Southwest Missouri State University coach and instructor Jack Steck, while in the General D race, incumbent Bob Chancellor faces Kaye Parker, who in 1998 ran unsuccessfully for state Senate against Roseann Bentley.

The following are the candidates' responses to questions about the development of Civic Park and zoning issues that involve compromise between a neighborhood and developers, such as the recent rezoning of property at Battlefield and U.S. 65.

Zone 2. Shelia Wright has lived in Springfield 16 years and is the rental property manager for the Wright family. She is also a former sociology instructor at SMSU.

Long moved to Springfield in 1990 and is a dock supervisor at Roadway. This is his first run for public office.

Both candidates agreed that the Civic Park development can be very positive for Springfield. Long said he was concerned about the neighborhoods surrounding the park and their need for improvement and cleanliness.

"This is going to be a great development, but it's not a miracle cure. We still need to make some efforts to improve that area of Springfield," Long said.

Wright said that the park could be an important recruiting tool.

"What we also need to remember is that this could be the first impression some people will get of our city. It will be our opportunity to show them what we have here," Wright said.

Regarding the relationship between developers and neighborhoods, both candidates said that compromise was important, and pointed to the Battlefield and U.S. 65 rezoning as an example. Wright said that it is very important for neighborhoods to meet with developers and learn what they are planning before they start the rezoning process.

"Most of the people of southwest Missouri are very cautious and suspicious. But knowing ahead of time sometimes makes all the difference for them," Wright said.

Long said he thought the council could do a better job of listening to the concerns of citizens.

"People who live in these communities know best what is facing them. We need to tread carefully because these are their lives we're dealing with," Long said.

General Seat C. Incumbent Teri Hacker holds a juris doctorate degree and is involved in several community organizations. She faces Jack Steck, who is running for public office for the first time.

Hacker said the development of Civic Park should encourage development in the center of town so that the city does not wind up with a "doughnut effect." She added that the involvement of the public is essential in the project, and though she said she wished the land acquisition process had gone more smoothly, it is now working out.

"We really need to fill in these areas of town where development has lagged and get some things moving so we won't continue a type of urban sprawl," Hacker said.

Steck said that he hoped the project would bring Springfield "a lot of civic pride."

Regarding rezoning of land in areas where neighbors have concerns, Hacker said she felt the council had gone out of its way to accommodate opposing interests.

"We've recently added a policy that encourages developers to talk with neighbors so that they don't get surprised down the line. That kind of thing will keep the process open and encourage people to get together on these things," Hacker said.

"This is one of the problems a growing city faces. It's something I feel the council and zoning people are truly aware of," Steck said.

General Seat D. Chancellor was appointed to fill Councilman Charlie Denison's seat when Denison ran for Greene County presiding commissioner. Chancellor is retired from Voice of America, where he was a foreign correspondent.

Parker sells, trains and monitors the use of chemicals for Texo Corporation. She has been on the Planning and Zoning Commission for five years and ran against Roseann Bentley for state senator.

Chancellor has been in Springfield for about 16 years, off and on, the last 10 consecutively, and Parker has been here 18 years.

Regarding the Civic Park development, Chancellor said, the decision about whether a Walgreens store would be placed at the corner of National and St. Louis, the gateway to the park, was a good example of compromise. The project, which didn't gain much support at first, was ultimately a good one, he said.

"This is something that was given a lot of debate and study, but it ultimately worked out very well," Chancellor said.

He added that the park would "work wonders" for the center city area. Parker agreed that the park project is great for downtown, but added that it was a progressive step forward for the city.

"This is a great example of a responsible type development for the entire community," Parker said.

Walgreens was a good compromise, she said, because it would not have been appropriate to have a "generic Walgreens" at that corner. The new store has a different facade and some landscaping that will better incorporate it into the park, she said.

Neighbors should be consulted when developers get ready to work in their area, Chancellor said, adding that he is proud council has taken steps to require that developers address concerns with neighbors.

"We have asked developers in the last month to begin carrying on this process of consultation. Though we cannot deprive a developer of the right to use his land, we can ask them to keep the conversation going with the neighbors," Chancellor said.

Parker said she was proud to say she was on Planning and Zoning when the Battlefield and U.S. 65 development agreement was reached.

"Now, as the property is developed and the neighborhood is involved, you've got a win-win all the way around. It's the way it should be: responsible development," Parker said.

Zone 3 and Mayor. Both uncontested candidates were pleased with the Civic Park development. Manley, who serves on the Civic Park Advisory Board, said he has a grand vision of what the park could ultimately be.

"The Civic Park is kind of a double-edged sword. It is a quality of life issue, but at the same time, it's not an economic boom producer. It is or will be a great shot in the arm to that area of downtown," Gannaway said.

Gannaway said that, with regard to zoning issues, the city has done a great deal to protect people's interests, such as the new, larger signs that notify residents when an area is up for a rezoning hearing.

Manley said the Planning and Zoning Commission should continue to be a place where parties can meet and discuss development in a public forum, but that the dialogue should begin earlier than the zoning hearing.

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