Last edited 3:16 p.m., July 22, 2019
The Gathering Tree nonprofit filed suit against the city of Springfield alleging discrimination over City Council’s recent denial of a rezoning request that would have allowed for a second Eden Village tiny homes development for the homeless.
The July 19 filing in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Missouri’s Southern Division alleges violations of the American With Disabilities Act and the Fair Housing Act, according to a news release and the court filing.
A rezoning request for 5 acres at 3303 W. Division St. for the second location of Eden Village last month failed to gain a supermajority vote needed under a protest petition. Council voted 5-3 in favor of the rezoning, short of the six votes needed for the supermajority. Council members Phyllis Ferguson, Abe McGull and Mayor Ken McClure voted in opposition.
The suit specifically takes issue with comments McClure made to the Springfield News-Leader last month.
"I had been inclined all along to support this. What made me change my mind was a filing they made with the city in early June requesting reasonable accommodation under the Americans with Disabilities Act," McClure told the News-Leader. "I viewed that as basically being threatening. We still had this zoning request pending and they filed this request under the ADA."
In the petition filed by Hall Ansley PC, officials with The Gathering Tree and Eden Village allege unfair retaliation under the ADA and FHA.
“Springfield’s decision to deny the rezoning application was retaliatory in response to Eden Village’s request for reasonable accommodations,” the lawsuit reads. “Eden Village is entitled to injunctive relief, compensatory damages, the costs of bringing this action and its reasonable attorney fees.”
The amount of damages sought is not included in the filing.
The city responded in a July 19 statement.
“City officials met with Eden Village partners recently to discuss other paths forward. Alternate approaches offered to them included applying for a planned development or waiting until the city had time to review and possibly update our zoning regulations,” the statement reads. “We were disappointed to learn through media reports that they have instead decided to file a lawsuit.”
The Gathering Tree held a grand opening for its first Eden Village in August 2018. The 2801 E. Division St. development comprises 31 tiny residences to house the homeless. Eden Village Chief Operating Officer Nate Schlueter said the development is fully occupied with more than 80 people on its waiting list.
Fishing retail shop Modern Outdoor Tackle moved; Healthy Spot LLC opened; and Springfield law firm Strong, Garner & Bauer PC changed names and moved its office.