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The Galloway Village Neighborhood Association has won its appeal in a case brought against it by developer Elevation Enterprises LLC and the city of Springfield.
A ruling filed June 8 maintains the public may use the municipal election process to appeal city zoning decisions. The case was heard in the Missouri Court of Appeals, Southern District, by a three-judge panel comprising Jennifer Growcock, Mary Sheffield and Gary W. Lynch.
According to past Springfield Business Journal reporting, Elevation Enterprises announced plans to build two multifamily buildings with a maximum of 25 housing units per acre, plus 12,000 square feet of retail, office and restaurant space on 4 acres located across from Sequiota Park in the Galloway Village neighborhood.
Concerns expressed by development opponents on the Galloway Village Neighbors Facebook page include traffic, congestion and encroachment on the natural environment.
Springfield City Council had voted in December 2020 for a citywide election on whether to rezone the property to make way for the development, but Elevation Enterprises sued the city in 2021 to stop the process. Greene County Circuit Judge David Jones ruled in favor of Elevation Enterprises to block the ballot that had been slated for Aug. 3 of that year.
It was Jones’ decision that was overturned in the June 8 appeals court ruling.
Members of the neighborhood association were jubilant in online comments, with special praise for a concurring opinion written by Lynch.
Lynch wrote, “The city adopted Special Ordinance 27441 calling and setting the referendum election … which Elevation seeks in this litigation to enjoin. Remarkably, however, rather than supporting in this litigation the legality of an election it called and set, the city takes the legal position that holding the election it set violates state law and for that reason the city should be enjoined by the courts from holding the election.”
He noted the city should not have adopted the special ordinance in the first place, if that was their view, or they should have immediately repealed it upon their determination that it violates state law.
“In the absence of such a repeal, I cannot reconcile the city’s simultaneously asserted, but diametrically opposing, legal positions that are clearly and irrevocably inconsistent,” Lynch wrote.
Lynch noted the move was either a principled and sincere legal position, or it was a disingenuous and duplicitous attempt to see an end run around its own charter’s referendum requirements.
The Galloway Village Neighborhood Association released a comment on the decision, noting it was thrilled with the decision in its favor.
“Our goal from the beginning was to ensure that citizens’ voices were heard by the city, and this decision will certainly accomplish that goal,” the statement reads. “Through the court-ordered election, citizens will have the final say on this rezoning matter. We believe this court opinion will end the city's attempts to subvert the referendum process in rezoning cases and provide citizens with a recourse when they have been otherwise ignored through the hearing processes.”
A spokesperson for the city declined to comment due to pending litigation. SBJ has reached out to Mitch Jenkins, owner of Elevation Development Co., to offer his perspective, but he did not immediately respond by deadline.
In Galloway Village Neighbors, Wendy Huscher, the association’s treasurer, displayed synonyms of two of the judge’s words: duplicitous, meaning cheating, deceitful, dishonest and double-dealing, and disingenuous, meaning underhanded.
One member on the Facebook page, 71-year-old physician Stephen Christianson, a resident of adjoining neighborhood Chimney Hills, said he remembers riding his bike through Galloway Village as a child.
The neighborhood that is now the site of Sequiota Park was a dump then.
“People who worked at the quarry used to have their bad cars that they would drive to work because they were bound to get dusty from the crushing operation. There was literally sewage coming out of the cave – soap and all kinds of things,” he said.
Development has happened and will continue to happen, according to Christianson.
“The problem down there is one of picking and choosing how much of the development to allow,” he said. “Unfortunately, the roads have not changed much since I used to ride my bike there.”
Christianson said the city needs the apartments and the tax revenue from them, but the residents want to maintain the rural character that is slipping away.
“Somewhere in between building a skyscraper and doing nothing is probably where we’re going to end up,” he said.
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