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Positronic seeks to remove planned development status

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Positronic Industries Inc. on March 11 presented a rezoning plan to Springfield City Council for a possible future expansion to its northwest Springfield plant.

The manufacturer of electronic connectors and cable assemblies is seeking a zoning change to general manufacturing from a planned development. The plan would give the company more flexibility for future planning and development at its plant near Springfield-Branson National Airport, officials say.

“Planned developments were very popular in the 1990s,” Positronic CEO John Gentry said. “The city is moving away from them. They’re restrictive and difficult to manage. They were a good idea at the time.”

Springfield Principal Planner Bob Hosmer said conventional overlay districts have taken the place of planned developments in Springfield.

“We still allow people to do planned developments, but we have gotten away from them with conventional overlay districts,” he said. “They kind of act as a planned development. You can limit uses.”

The reasoning behind moving away from planned developments, Hosmer said, is that staff had issues interpreting developer’s plans due to poor wording or an omittance of details.

While conventional overlay districts are recommended for new projects, there are still hundreds of active planned developments in Springfield.

“We still have quite a few,” Hosmer said. “We have eliminated some, but between 300 and 350 are still active.”

From 1981 to 1999, the city had 91 planned developments and the number increased to 323 by 2007, Hosmer said. The oldest active planned development is from 1981.

The most recent planned development was approved by council on March 11 for a mixed-use development at Pickwick Avenue and Cherry Street by Pickwick and Cherry LLC.

The city began utilizing conventional overlay districts in 2007, Hosmer said, and now there are nearly 160 on the books.

Comparatively, planned developments also have extra steps after zonings are approved, including a final plan submission for review by the Administrative Review Committee, the Planning and Zoning Commission or council members to confirm the development will meet approved standards.

“We found it’s an added expense and slows down development,” Hosmer said.

A planned development allows for a maximum of 150,000 square feet, which Gentry said may not be enough space for Positronic in the future. The existing building at 1325 N. Eldon Ave. already is 75,000 square feet.

“We don’t want to be locked into 75,000 square feet,” he said.

Plans are still being developed, Gentry said, and the company is doing preparatory work amid workforce consolidation plans.

The company began consolidating portions of operations at its Puerto Rico and Mount Vernon plants in March 2018, though Gentry said both facilities are still functioning.

The Mount Vernon plant continues to handle molding operations with 40-50 employees, and Gentry said the Puerto Rico plant’s 40 employees make components.

At the meeting, Springfield Planning and Development Director Mary Lilly Smith said if additional development occurs, construction of sidewalks by Positronic would be required on Division Street and Eldon Avenue, along with a traffic impact study.

“If the traffic impact study indicates there are improvements needed on the streets, they will be responsible for that as well,” she said.

The most recent vehicle count on Division west of West Bypass is 8,485 per day, with 804 per day on Eldon south of Division, according to city documents.

The parcel was approved as a planned development by council in January 2012, which allowed the construction of a broadcast tower for KTXR-FM radio transmissions on the northern tract, according to city documents.

The northern half has sinkholes and a sinkhole watershed, which limits development in that area, Smith said.

“All future development has to work around the sinkholes,” said architect Billy Kimmons of Hood-Rich Inc., representing Positronic. “It does start to inform where you can and cannot develop.”

Council is scheduled to vote on the rezoning proposal March 25.

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