Springfield, MO

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Property owners near MSU seek blighted status

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A plan to redevelop 30 homes near Missouri State University in exchange for a 10-year 100-percent tax abatement was presented to Springfield City Council on Dec. 13. Before it can move forward, however, council would need to declare blighted the 7.1-acre swath of land on the west side of Kimbrough Avenue at Madison Street, according to Economic Development Director Mary Lilly Smith.

The Land Clearance for Redevelopment Authority, a city-appointed committee that considers tax abatement issues for developers of blighted areas, has recommended council adopt the ordinance that would benefit BSH Springfield 1 LLC and Bryan Properties, which own the homes in the designated area.

Smith said that not all of the properties would need to fall under the state’s definition of blight for the developers to receive the tax incentive, so long as a predominance of the properties are recognized as such.

“Blighted conditions can create an economic and social liability,” Smith said. “Many of these properties are not marketable and have unsafe living conditions.”

She said two-thirds of the homes, primarily rentals, have asbestos shingles, and many have peeling paint, rotten wood and are structurally unsafe. Between June 4 and Nov. 4, there were 445 crimes reported in the area, which Smith said was another reason council should consider passing the resolution.

Councilwoman Cindy Rushefsky expressed concern about residents in the properties.
“Given the unsafe living conditions, how are these properties OK to rent? Don’t we have any standards anymore?”

Bryan Properties, a development and management firm for single and multifamily units, owns the majority of the properties under discussion. Owner Bryan Magers declined to disclose his plans at this time but said they were separate from the plans by BSH Springfield 1 LLC, represented by Tim Roth of Sperry Van Ness/Rankin Co.

Smith said all of the properties were owned by or under contract by the developers, and she believed renters were moving out of the worst properties. Roth did not return calls by press time.

Smith said the developers are planning to build a mix of residential and commercial properties, but would have to go before the Planning and Zoning Commission to change the area’s current multifamily designation for any planned commercial properties after the first of the year.

“The first step, however, is to designate the area as blighted,” Smith said.

A public hearing on the matter is scheduled for the next council meeting Jan. 10. The resolution will receive its second reading at that meeting, and the council will have the opportunity to vote on the measure after the public hearing.

Coal-tar resolution fails
By a 5-3 vote, council rejected a resolution to study the effects of coal-tar sealants on area waterways. Mayor Jim O’Neal was absent from the meeting.

The resolution would have formalized a current ban on coal-tar use by Springfield Public Works and called for increased scrutiny by state and federal authorities.

The use of these sealants has been hotly debated for most of the year among city officials, pavement companies and health advocates.

Before casting a nay vote, Councilman Robert Stephens said there is little evidence that bans are effective in protecting public health.

“I wanted to try and vote for this resolution, but there is just not enough data to suggest a ban is effective,” Stephens said, noting that a ban in Austin, Texas, has yet to produce any evidence of declining cancer levels there.

Coal-tar sealants contain chemical compounds called polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons that researchers say may cause cancer.

Councilman Jerry Compton, who also opposes the measure, said he has heard conflicting testimony from experts. He felt that state and federal agencies could take action if they were to find high levels of PAHs in area lakes and streams.

“Let’s put the onus on them to show us that we have a problem,” Compton said. “We already have enough watchdog agencies.”

Mayor Pro-tem Dan Chiles, who spoke in favor of the ban, pointed to studies by the U.S. Geological Survey linking the sealants used on roadways and parking lots to increased levels of PAHs found in U.S. lakes and waterways.

“There are no two sides to this story,” Chiles said. “There is peer-reviewed science, and then there are others making money.”

The self-imposed ban by Public Works will remain in effect.

A peek inside Heer’s
City Manager Greg Burris said he had been in contact with Heer’s building developer Kevin McGowan about the need to board up the vacant landmark on Park Central Square. Burris said McGowan requested that the city take the necessary steps to secure the building because he was in St. Louis and it would be easier for them to manage the job locally.

Burris said the city would solicit contractor bids for the work and then place a lien against the property to recover the cost.[[In-content Ad]]


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