YOUR BUSINESS AUTHORITY
Last edited 1:20 p.m., March 21, 2023
A project delay requested by Springfield City Council inadvertently caused the de facto denial of a Doling Park neighborhood housing project.
At the Feb. 21 meeting, Springfield City Council asked developer Mike Stalzer to voluntarily host a second neighborhood meeting for a mixed multifamily and single-family housing development he had proposed for the area of 739 W. Talmage St.
The required neighborhood meeting for the project coincided with a severe cold snap on Dec. 22, and Councilmember Monica Horton felt the weather prevented some residents from attending the meeting and sharing their concerns.
Stalzer took the opportunity to host a second meeting, but at last night’s council meeting, City Attorney Rhonda Lewsader informed council of a provision she had discovered just that day while preparing for possible questions from council.
The public hearing on the bill was held on Feb. 6 and declared closed on that date, Lewsader explained. However, city code Section 36-405F states that if council fails to act within 30 days following the conclusion of a public hearing on a preliminary planned development, the development shall be deemed denied.
“Because no action was taken by City Council by March 8, 2023, under city code, the preliminary planned development set out in this bill is deemed denied,” she said. “There is no action that sitting council can take this evening regarding the application for preliminary planned development.”
The process must start over from the very beginning, Lewsader said, and the developer can file an application immediately. She added that the entire process would have to be repeated, including a review by the Planning & Zoning Commission and another neighborhood meeting.
City Manager Jason Gage said the question of rescheduling a neighborhood meeting came up in the last meeting and city staff had to review city code on the spot.
“As you recall, we were trying to, in essence, dance in the meeting to try to address the question,” he said.
He added that the code is different for a typical rezoning than for a planned development like Stalzer’s proposal.
“I don’t know why,” he said. “And to me, it should be the same, but it is different, and, yes, we missed that area in the code.”
Gage offered an apology to council and the developer on behalf of the staff.
He added that council has been talking about the urgency of a city code update so that regulations match up with the city’s comprehensive plan, and part of that update is to review processes.
“There’s no reason to have small nuances in places that perhaps create inequities,” Gage said.
Councilmember Richard Ollis said everybody makes mistakes. He added, though, that time is of the essence with development.
“The length of time it takes to develop a project in this community seems to be longer than maybe it should be,” Ollis said. “And with the economy and inflation the way it is and interest rates, I just sometimes feel that it’s a challenge to get things accomplished.”
Councilmember Craig Hosmer inquired about the neighborhood’s protest petitions.
“Will they still apply to whenever the application is made, or will they have to go through that process all over again?” he asked.
Lewsader said they, too, would have to restart the process.
“So, we shouldn’t just apologize to the developer; we should apologize to neighbors as well as the developer,” Hosmer said.
Horton said that while the city considers code changes, it should look into provisions for canceling neighborhood meetings and allowing for them to be rescheduled if there is a situation such as inclement weather.
“That needs to be included, because we want the process of neighbors engaging to be really meaningful,” she said.
She thanked Stalzer for hosting a new neighborhood meeting.
Reached by Springfield Business Journal this morning, Stalzer declined to comment. It is unclear whether he will propose the project again.
Ironically, the rezoning was not even necessary for the development. Stalzer already adapted his original plans, reducing the new development from 42 townhomes to 22 single-family dwellings, which meets the city’s residential zoning requirements. The development also included the transformation of a gymnasium owned by Baptist Temple of Springfield into a 33-unit apartment building.
Neighbors had raised concerns about increasing traffic near Watkins Elementary, stormwater retention and other issues.
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