A dozen University Heights residents filed suit against BK&M LLC over its proposed development at Sunshine Street and National Avenue.
The lawsuit filed Dec. 8 in Greene County Circuit Court alleges deed restrictions prohibit the company's planned development. A copy of the lawsuit was provided on government watchdog Facebook page Springfield/Greene County Start Local.
In addition to BK&M, the suit also names Frizzell Properties LLC and individuals James Lueker and Marla Redmon as defendants. The suit indicates Frizzell Properties and Lueker and Redmon may have sold property to BK&M “while the application for zoning amendment is pending.”
According to the lawsuit, Eloise Mackey in June 1925 platted University Heights and recorded the plat with the Greene County recorder's office.
"Mackey designed University Heights as a noncommercial, residential neighborhood with specific restrictions incorporated into each lot's deed as part of a common scheme or plan of development," the lawsuit states. "Mackey was the original grantor of each University Heights deed."
A deed restriction written by Mackey, according to the lawsuit, was that no buildings could be constructed in the neighborhood except private residences.
BK&M, a group led by businessperson Ralph Duda, has proposed a development with a set of buildings that may be up to six stories and 200,000 square feet wrapping around the corner of the block, according to past reporting.
Residents have clashed with the development group over the plans since an initial meeting in August. Curse words have been exchanged from both sides, and in October, BK&M held a meeting in a tent on the site of a razed residence, as rain poured down and knocked out power to the generator and armed guards stood by. Allegations of Americans with Disabilities Act violations have been levied against BK&M for the setup at the tent meeting, according to past reporting. Additionally, some University Heights residents have installed "Save Our Homes" yard signs.
The lawsuit seeks to establish judicial declarations that the plaintiffs have a legally protected interest in enforcing deed restrictions on University Heights lots, that the developer's lots are subject to the deed restrictions and that applications to amend zoning at the project site are moot.
The plaintiffs – Dixie Sleight, Barbara Susan Robinson, Doug and Erinn Johnson, Anna Squires, Rod and Lisa Dixon, Rebecca Gilmore, Mark Wealand and Steve Waddell, Jeani Thomson and Virginia Olson – are represented by Bryan Wade and Laura Greene of Husch Blackwell LLP. The lawsuit names Bryan Fisher of Neale & Newman LLP as BK&M's attorney. Fisher was in attendance at the tent meeting on behalf of BK&M to answer questions from residents.
The congregation at Crossway Baptist Church is building a children’s wing at the west end of the church, and beginning in 2024, it will be home to a Christian academy.