RNA letter to City Council, RE: Administrative delay request

The following letter was sent to City Council today. We urge Rountree residents to make their voice hear, one way or another, by writing Council at citycouncil@springfieldmo.gov or by attending tonight’s meeting at 6:30 p.m. at Old City Hall.

Dear City Council members:

The Rountree Neighborhood Association Board of Directors, with the support of informed and engaged neighborhood residents, urge you to keep Council Bill 2017-159 on the June 26 agenda for a public hearing and vote. The bill should not be tabled, and we urge you to pass this resolution.

The RNA has been asking for a review of our neighborhood planning documents since the announcement of the East Cherry Flats apartment building in August of 2014. At that time, we recognized that the Cherry Street corridor was becoming more attractive for potential development and made it clear that the current zoning and planning documents were outdated, conflicting, and in need of review. We were not made aware of the East Cherry Flats plans until the project had already been approved by the Land Clearance for Redevelopment Authority Board (LCRA) and was about to be heard by the Planning & Zoning Commission.

It was exactly this element of surprise that led us to believe a review of the neighborhood planning documents was in order. We wanted to take a “time out” and carefully gather input from all stakeholders, in an impartial process led by the City before further development took place. The RNA, with support from residents, has been clear in that regard over the last two and half years, as the following timeline will show.

  • We stated the need for the review during public comment in at the Sept. 22, 2014 City Council meeting, where RNA board member Jeff Barber noted issues with “incompatibility of the zoning of the area,” according to minutes of the meeting.
  • In a News-Leader op/ed column published on Oct. 4, 2014, the potential for development on Cherry was noted and neighbors were urged to join with the City for development of a shared vision for the street.
  • We began sending formal, written requests for a review of the planning documents shortly thereafter, in the fall of 2014.
  • In March 2015, Council formally responded to our then repeated requests by passing Council Bill 2015-084, a resolution “initiating review of the Rountree Neighborhood Plan and Rountree Urban Conservation District, to consider modifying one or both as needed.” We also received a letter from Mayor Stephens affirming this action at that time.
  • On September 28, 2016, with 18 months gone by and no action taken by the City on the review, the RNA board formally requested a “moratorium on lot aggregations, minor subdivisions, and further apartment or other multi-family developments on the Cherry Street corridor pending adoption of an updated Rountree Urban Conservation District plan.” The request letter was sent to the planning department and copied to City Council. On October 21, 2016, Councilman Tom Prater informed RNA via email that the review was stalled because of staff cuts and the City would let us know when the positions were filled in the future.
  • Throughout this time, whenever possible, the RNA board tried to communicate with real estate agents, property owners, and developers about our ongoing request for this review. We have tried to make it clear that developing this section of Cherry is not as simple as the R-HD zoning would make it appear and that in any case, we wanted a thorough review of the rules as soon as possible.
  • With still no word on how soon the review might begin and with development interests continuing to grow, the RNA held a special town-hall style neighborhood meeting on March 30, 2017 to talk about the Cherry Street corridor and gauge residents’ opinions about what should be done. A request for a moratorium was discussed at that time, with support expressed by several present. Minutes of that meeting were posted at RountreeNews.org on April 18. Developers were present at this open meeting.
  • At the April 3, 2017 Council meeting, during a public hearing for a development in the 800 block of South National, RNA board members noted the standing request for a review and stated publicly that we would be re-upping that request due to the need for a shared vision of the future of Cherry Street.
  • The City initiated the UCD review process with a kick-off meeting on May 16. Developers were present at this open meeting. Immediately following that meeting, the RNA board voted unanimously to re-up our request for a delay. The minutes of that meeting are also posted at RountreeNews.org.

As you can see, we have been consistent in stating our desire for a review and a delay for more than two and half years. Those requesting this review are long-term residents of the area and committed stakeholders. We wish the review could have begun earlier, so that a delay on development was not necessary. But given the circumstances, we believe the delay is both necessary and prudent. We ask that you place a value on the process and allow the City-led review to play out rather than allow development to take place at the last minute before the review. To do so would be a violation of the trust we have placed in you as elected officials who are charged with taking a long-term view of the future of Springfield.

Sincerely,

Rountree Neighborhood Association Board of Directors:

Laurel Bryant, Nick Harper, Mike Brothers, John Melton, Peggy Wise, Nancy Dornan, Jeff Bentley, Jeff Barber, Jim Lohmeyer, & Sue Ekstam

About Mike Brothers

Mike is a Pickwick Person; husband to Maureen and dad to Vivian and Dorothy. He has lived in the neighborhood since 2011 and has lived in Springfield for over 20 years. He the PR director for Drury University. He was previously a communications specialist with the City of Springfield and the Springfield-Greene County Health Dept, and before that a features writer and music columnist with the News-Leader.
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