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Gary Gibson elected new mayor pro tem

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Councilman Gary Gibson is the new mayor pro tem for Springfield City Council as of council's April 12 meeting. Gibson was nominated by Councilman Ralph Manley, who was participating in his first meeting in office as Zone 3 representative.

Councilman Bob Chancellor contested Gibson for the seat. Councilwoman Teri Hacker, outgoing mayor pro tem, was not nominated.

Gibson received five votes to Chancellor's four for the position. Council members Manley, Russell Rhodes, Tom Carlson, Gibson and Shelia Wright voted for Gibson, while Hacker, Chancellor, Mayor Lee Gannaway and Bob Vanaman cast votes for Chancellor.

Hacker said she was still interested in the position, but understood that Manley was noncommittal prior to the meeting.

"I was shocked when Ralph Manley read from a prepared statement nominating Gary Gibson. He had told me he hadn't made up his mind as of the meeting. I was very disappointed in that Ralph didn't just say he planned to support Gary Gibson," Hacker said.

Though she still wanted the job, Hacker said, she supported Chancellor in an effort to gain some compromise and unanimity among the council members.

In other action, the council heard a nearly two-hour debate on the rezoning of a 505-acre tract of land from a mix of uses to a planned development. The development is to be an industrial park and is above the Springfield Underground mining, warehouse and distribution facility owned by the Griesemer family.

Concern by neighbors in the area about permitted uses on the development prompted council members to amend the bill and send it back to the Planning and Zoning Commission for further study.

Representatives from both Cooper Estates and Supreme Estates addressed the council, concerned about a permitted use in the development that would allow soup kitchens and emergency shelters. A change in the bill when it was in the hands of Planning and Zoning previously had led to those uses being permitted for portions of the development.

David Knight, of Butler, Rosenbury & Partners, represented the owners of the property at the meeting. Knight said that it was not the developers' intent for the development to allow the uses that concerned the neighbors.

The list of 28 permitted uses was put forth for area E, or about 15 acres north of Division Street and east of the City Utilities water tanks.

The three uses of concern were soup kitchens, community treatment centers and telecommunications towers, all of which, Knight said, were not intended by the developer to be included as uses. Instead, a shorter list of permitted uses for area E, which excluded the three debated uses, was amended into the bill.

Council voted unanimously to table the bill and amended the bill to include the shorter list of permitted uses for area E, with Carlson and Rhodes voting against.

Gibson said the removal to Planning and Zoning was good because it would permit more dialogue between the neighbors and the developer.

"I think there were still some issues that needed to be worked out, and I suspect this will allow some opportunity for doing so," Gibson said.

Hacker said the misunderstandings were unfortunate, and that more discussion couldn't hurt, but "I wish we could have passed this on through so the developer could go ahead and proceed with an industrial park that is going to benefit Springfield economically."

Council also held a first reading on a bill to rezone about 58 acres near Lake Springfield. Some residents of that area spoke out against developing the property, which is, residents say, a habitat for wildlife.

Craig Lowther, who represented the developer, said the parcel is now zoned for a higher density usage than what the developer plans. The developer is asking for a reduction in that density.

Lowther said the acreage is now zoned to permit 138 units on about half of the property, while the developer is asking for a residential single-family zoning, which would permit "about one-fourth that much development," Lowther said. This zoning would allow about 2.3 lots per acre in the area, and permit about 126 homes in the 58-acre tract.

Council also held a first reading on a bill that would approve a contract with Hartman and Company for the College Street re-opening project.

Re-opening College Street would remove what is called the west tuning fork and restore the street grid that would lead College straight to Park Central Square. The contract is for $230,557, and work is set to begin in June.

In its only two action items, other than the mayor pro tem vote, council approved a special ordinance to set aside funds for the construction of a golf learning center. The city's golf course revenues will repay a $100,000 loan from the city general fund for the construction of the Connie Morris Golf Training Center.

The ordinance also provided for accepting a grant from Jim Morris of $100,000 to go toward the center's construction. The total project cost will be $300,000.

The council also unanimously approved a resolution adopting a new Urban Service Area policy.

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