Cleaning up waste – and our neighborhood plan

Hello neighbors! The RNA board would like to extend a huge “thank you” to everyone who came and dropped off trash or yardwaste at Saturday’s big cleanup event. Huge thanks as well to Community Partnership of the Ozarks, Habitat for Humanity, Missouri Council for the Blind and the City for setting it up. We filled about nine of those large, industrial-sized dumpsters – that’s a lot of waste moving out of the neighborhood! And we had about a dozen households sign up as RNA members, which we are also happy to see. The board has been working hard over the past two-plus years with respect to the Cherry corridor and maintaining pressure on the City to review and update the Urban Conservation District.

And guess what? It’s finally happening! You have probably received a postcard from the City in the past few days inviting you to a kick-off meeting for the new neighborhood plan (6 p.m., Tuesday, May 16 at Rountree school). We hope you can make this first meeting of what will be a detailed visioning process led by the City.

City planning staff invited RNA board members to a meeting recently to discuss the upcoming planning process. We learned that the City has hired a planning staffer specifically to update all of Springfield’s neighborhood plans. This is a position that was cut during the Great Recession and not replaced until now. Since Rountree has been pushing for an update for over two years, we’re first in line. The process will take time, and it will be up to all of us to remain engaged. The board committed to the City that we would help with communication as the process unfolds. Stay tuned for more info – and see you on May 16!

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Cherry Street Development Survey

Fellow neighbors, the RNA board is very interested in your feedback on some important potential changes happening on the North side of Cherry Street! A few weeks ago we held a special meeting to discuss this topic in depth. We had a great turnout, with nearly 50 people in the room. If you want to catch up on the discussion that night, the minutes from that meeting are now posted here on the site.

The next step is a survey, linked below. We need to continue to gather your input so that we can truly represent you as change continues to be a possibility along Cherry.

Take the survey now!

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RNA special meeting minutes – March 30, 2017

Topic: Cherry Street corridor discussion

Board members present: Laurel Bryant, Sue Ekstam, Mike Brothers, Jim Lohmeyer, Peggy Wise, Nick Harper, John Melton, Jeff Bentley.

Others present: 42 other people were also in attendance.

Call to order: 6:30 p.m., University Heights Baptist Church

The meeting began with Chair Laurel Bryant and board members giving some background about recent happenings on Cherry Street. She discussed properties along the street from west to east. At Cherry and Kickapoo, one individual owns a 1.1-acre parcel consisting of several homes. Moving east, a developer has recent purchased two homes on one 0.47-acre lot. The adjacent 3-4 houses just to the east are individually owned at this time. East of that are two properties owned by Kelly Byrne, where a new development of inward-facing townhouses was proposed. That plan was withdrawn after the Land Clearance for Redevelopment Authority (LCRA) voted to decline a blight designation after opposition from several Rountree residents. The next triplex to the east is held by a private owner. The next three and the “Spanish Mission” building, along with two homes behind the Josh Mitchell gallery, are currently in a due diligence period with Kelly Byrne. He is in the process of purchasing this 1.15 acres consisting of the Spanish Mission and the five homes.

All of this is zoned residential high density (R-HD), which allows up to 40 units per acre. It has been zoned that way since the 1930s and the city doesn’t really want to “dial down” that zoning, said Jeff Bentley, however there are other documents and plans that do mitigate the high density zoning somewhat, including the Urban Conservation District (UCD) and the neighborhood plan. The RNA requested a review of the UCD two years ago in March 2015. The city agreed, but with staffing capacity they were not able to do it at the time, or since. In part because of this inaction, in the fall of 2016, the RNA requested a moratorium on lot aggregation and development on Cherry until such time that the UCD could be updated.

We have several issues on the street including traffic speed and congestion at the Cherry/Pickwick intersection, pedestrian safety, and a lack of adequate parking.

Laurel asked the group: What are our general options on the north side of Cherry?

Continue to press for the requested moratorium? Work with the developer on a planned development? (This will require compromise and end up with some things we may not like there.) Show up at every meeting and oppose everything? Even if we do that, there are no guarantees the voting bodies will listen. Requests for blight designations are one way for us to insert ourselves into the process but it’s not always requested for each project.

Discussion then turned to the Pickwick District proposal, which was recently posted about on one of the Rountree Facebook pages. Byrne is the developer. He came to the RNA board with some preliminary drawings for feedback and the board did give him some, which he did incorporate. And he’s also done a survey online for feedback. He has met with City staff and his next steps would be a neighborhood meeting as required by the city, and then he can take it to LCRA for a blight designation, then to the Planning & Zoning Commission and finally to City Council.

Laurie Knowlton owns two businesses at Pickwick and Cherry, has been in the area 20 years. Have faced parking, traffic, intersection is treacherous. Concerned as a resident and a business owner. Right now people have to park far down Pickwick and Cherry (which blocks off sightlines). Feels the intersection needs to be improved with a stoplight or roundabout. As for the proposed development, it’s totally out of scale and the design doesn’t match the neighborhood architecture. Will only make parking and traffic work. Feels intersection needs to be improved before anything else happens.

Colleen Smith, also a business owner, is concerned about congestion, pedestrians, kids, cyclists on the corner. People come flying around the corner off Cherry onto Pickwick. Kids and families cross at that crosswalk. It’s an issue.

Jeff Bentley asked the group: more pedestrian accommodation or more cars and parking? The two might be mutually exclusive.

Speed limits are not enforced along Cherry. We’ve had discussions with our PAR police officer and the City. John Melton suggested a traffic light.

City has done many traffic calming devices in the past at other locations. One example is the “jog” on northbound Campbell just as traffic enters the downtown core. It was suggested that more parking on Cherry would help pedestrians because it effectively narrows the street and slows down traffic.

Past board member Karen Spence recalled a conversation with former Public Works Director Earl Newman about a crosswalk on Cherry. He “refused” to even consider it because he said a crosswalk gives people a false sense of security and might actually endanger pedestrians crossing Cherry.

It was asked if the city had done a multi-family housing study to determine what the real need is for this? Are we over built in center Springfield? City Councilman Craig Hosmer has requested this information from city staff and it should be available in the near future.

Is the parking sufficient for the incoming apartment being built?

Are there restrictions on the types of businesses and the hours they can operate? This will greatly impact and exacerbate the already tight parking situation.

Josh Mitchell, artist and gallery owner at Pickwick and Cherry, spoke in favor of “giving progress a chance.” Has lived and worked next door the old mission building and the two college rental properties for 16 years and it’s been a “nightmare.” It’s got a very high number of police calls and is frankly ugly. Is it blight? “Darn near.” It can also be improved. He pointed out that the lots are very deep and would have much room for parking lots, etc. Change on the north side of Cherry could be a very good thing.

Former RNA board chair Bob Keyes asked – does it make sense to work with the developer in light of the existing R-HD zoning? Laurel said the RNA board does not want to attempt to negotiate until we are sure that’s what the neighborhood wants. It’s very tough to negotiate with individual developers. Jeff Bentley suggested that a more effective approach is to update the UCD and create a known, level playing field for the developers and business owners and residents alike. It gives us leverage with future developers and puts expectations right up front for all concerned before the process begins.

Collaboration will allow us to work with him now and try to get many of the things we want before the UCD revision is possible.

The developer has said he wants to go after empty nesters, young professionals, professors, etc., and not necessarily student housing.

Brookside in KC was cited as a successful neighborhood. Many people say Rountree is like Brookside. We should protect that. It was pointed out that Brookside is all two-story. Jeff said that should be our goal: to get a pedestrian scale and preserves the character and charm of the neighborhood.

One person supported the moratorium idea to push the whole process forward, collectively. This will put pressure on the city from both the neighborhood AND the developers. Would a petition process of some kind help make this happen?

Would senior housing be workable? RNA board members said this has been suggested to the developer but he said it will not work economically.

One business owner said tenants and pedestrians help his photography business. People walk by and they notice his place. He wants to know about the crime rates before and after East Cherry Flats was erected.

It was said that development shouldn’t be totally opposed but we need keep a shared vision of what we really want there. We need to think in terms of concepts (i.e., pedestrian scale) and think long term – 20, 30 years out.

Could we request a moratorium immediately after Byrne puts his project into the pipeline, and then work with him, but try to stop the rest until the UCD revision?

What is the downside of the moratorium? It will alienate developers.

How should we best proceed? Mike Brothers suggested that we try to craft a few conclusions and some options for paths forward and then do an online survey. In the meantime, he urged those in attendance to continue to think about these issues and send feedback to him and Laurel. Email addresses are: mikebrothers@drury.edu and laurelrlbryant@gmail.com.

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RNA Meeting Minutes – March 2017

Board members present: Laurel Bryant, Peggy Wise, Nick Harper, Jeff Barber, Mike Brothers, Sue Ekstam, John Melton, Jeff Bentley, Nancy Dornan

Others present: Bob Keyes, Jennifer Falter, Robert & Colette Walden, Loyce Rushen, Allen & Jennie Manes, Gary Strunk, Jenny Sledge, Lisa Lewellen, Nancy Evans, David Payne (visitor), Fred Ellison (visitor), Carl Herd (visitor)

Call to Order – 7 p.m.

Review of Minutes – Nick Harper, Jeff Barber, approved.

Treasurer’s Report – Peggy Wise gave the report. We added two new households this month and one more is coming. The balance stands at $1898.79.

PAR Officer – Officer Schlup was on a stake out and not able to attend. Jeff Barber mentioned 1535 E. Grand where many cars are often parked in the yard.

Two residents said the area around the intersection of Catalpa and Kentwood has very high-speed traffic because so many people use Kentwood as an outer road of sorts for Glenstone. The large azalea on the southwest corner also prevents drivers on Catalpa from seeing northbound cars on Kentwood. Traffic calming ideas were discussed. Another resident said there’s speeding on Delaware lately. A house on Fairway was broken into during the daytime hours.

Discussion of dues (voting item) – Per discussion from the February meeting, a proposal has been made to keep requested RNA dues at the current level ($25 per household) but to allow for a hardship exception, to be heard and granted by the board on a case-by-case basis. A $10 individual/$25 family suggested rate was also discussed last month. Paid dues are tied to voting privileges.

Use of the funds was discussed: Donations to Rountree PTA, neighborhood cleanups, greenery at Pickwick & Cherry, etc. Are we shutting people out of the voting process by asking people to pay before they vote? Several agreed that we need to do a drive to remind people about the dues and the benefits of membership.

Jeff Barber motioned that current structure stands and add a $10 individual option, as well as an option for hardship exceptions. Mike Brothers seconded, and added that the issue be revisited again in the next six months to a year. The motion was approved.

Bylaws update – Tabled.

Neighborhood Advisory Council (NAC) update – Jeff Barber said the NAC recently had a lunch meeting with City Council. The group’s top 2017 recommendation is neighborhood planning. He said there is a now a great need for more capacity for the city to engage in this type of planning. It’s been 15 years since most neighborhood plans were updated and development pressures are increasing. The City has just hired one new planner specifically for neighborhoods. This City Council lunch discussion is posted on the City’s website.

NAC has also released a study document about the SPS bond issue on the April 4 ballot. Ultimately, the group did not take a “pro” or “con” position. The document has been posted to the Facebook page.

Neighborhood Cleanup update – Peggy inquired about having a shredder on site. That is something that is not provided by CPO. We could have shredding at a second event but that would mean not having a fall cleanup. We agreed that having two cleanups is best. May 6 is the next scheduled spring cleanup date and it will be much the same as in the past. Curbside pickup is available to dues paying members.

Zoning updates – The Planning & Zoning Commission approved a text amendment to the UCD for the Tie & Timber Brewing Co. microbrewery and tap room on Cherry in the former tanning salon. P&Z also approved the planned development for Boomer Town Lofts in the 800 block of S. National Ave. Both items now go to City Council on Monday, April 3. Jeff Bentley volunteered to read the PD and report back to the board. There is concern about the increased traffic in that block. We might need to show up the April 3 meeting to ask City Council to consider making changes to the PD. This might also be a good opportunity to once again point out that the UCD needs to be updated – we have R-HD and R-SF abutting each other within the same half-block along National.

Cherry Street development & UCD request update – Discussion taken up with next item below.

Re-cap March 8 discussion with Pickwick Place developer Kelly Byrne – Kelly approached the board in September with this initial idea and was surprised to find the RNA board was not very receptive to his ideas. He has revised the ideas and plans in the months since. The current proposal is a mixed-use development with three stories facing Cherry and four stories on the north side of the building and a parking lot along the existing alley. He posted his concepts and a survey on the Facebook page today. The developer met with the RNA board in early March in an effort to continue to get neighborhood input.

Laurel suggested we have a neighborhood meeting related to this development in particular. Jeff Bentley suggested we widen we discussion to a general vision for the Cherry corridor. This could even be considered some advance neighborhood planning work ahead of the UCD revision, when that occurs. Tentatively planned for Thursday, March 30.

Other Business – David Payne with A-Mega Homes spoke. He and his partner buy and rehab homes in and around Springfield. They are residents of the area. They generally buy and hold; they do not flip houses for the most part. He passed out their contact information.

Fred Ellison and Carl Herd from the Save R-12 Schools committee spoke about the proposed bond issue on the April 4 ballot. The group is concerned about the master plan that SPS has put forth. They are not opposed to spending money on schools and the school system. But they are concerned about inequity. Closure of a school is irreversible and can have devastating effects on a neighborhood. They are urging a NO vote on the issue. More info is at www.SaveR12Schools.org.

Adjournment – Meeting was adjourned at 9:35 p.m.

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RNA Meeting Minutes – February 2017

Board members present: Nick Harper, president; Nancy Dornan, member at large; Jeff Barber, NAC representative; Laurel Bryant, president-elect; Jeff Bentley, member at large; Jim Lohmeyer, member at large; Peggy Wise, treasurer; Mike Brothers, secretary

Others present: Nancy Evans, Ed Fillmer, Courtney Smith, Paden Chambers, Delia Gresham, Jerris Harper, Alana Owen – City of Springfield Planning Department, Brendan Griesmer – City of Springfield Planning Department, Officer Zach Schlup – Springfield Police Department

Call to Order – 7 p.m.

Review of Minutes – Laurel motioned to approve, Peggy seconded; approved.

Treasurers Report – Peggy Wise gave the report. We added one new business and one new residential membership this month. The balance stands at $1778.89.

Par Officer – Officer Zach Schlup gave an update. A home in the 1100 block of S. Pickwick had a break-in; no leads so far. There was a string of burglaries in the area, and they were caught at a nearby gas station. These were mostly just a crime of opportunity by some young kids and are in custody now. There were two homicides in the areas but were unrelated to each other. Officer Sears executed a search warrant at 1210 E. Cherry St. and found some drugs, mainly marijuana. There have been peeping Toms, including on 900 block East Loren where some college girls live, as well as some other nearby areas. Has not been caught. A trail camera has been set up. Likely a younger guy, stocky build, dark hair with a buzz cut and a goatee on his chin. Possibly a college age guy as well. Also has been some theft of business mail and car break-ins in the area. People are stealing IDs from the cars. Laurel suggested some patrols on Cherry and the alley to the north on vacant houses where homeless are gathering. Nancy mentioned the continued eggings up and down Weller and Pickwick, as well as some rocks that were thrown through car windows. Schlup said it’s very tough to catch people doing this. He urged people to call 9-1-1 when it happens to document it. SPD is hiring officers right now, too. His contact info is 864-1110 and zschlup@springfieldmo.gov.

Dues increases – Laurel read a note from a former board member about the cost of the dues. No other Springfield neighborhood association dues cost more than $15 per household per year. The letter writer argued that it should be lowered and suggested RNA should do a marketing campaign to get more premium payers. RNA is $25 for households. It was noted that RNA doesn’t charge for other services such as mulch and green space maintenance and the annual household cleanup. RNA recently donated $1,000 to Rountree PTA, about $200 at Xmas for school kids wish list, and have kicked in a few hundred dollars for planning studies done in the area. We have gone from 13 to over 30 members this year. Some kind of flexibility in dues pricing was discussed. Can we add some language that says people can come to us if there is a hardship? Also agreed that a marketing campaign would help to increase membership overall. However, we will need to show what the money goes for and what the RNA actually does to support neighbors. Most agree that the dollar amount brought in is less relevant than increasing the participation rate, and supported the idea of a hardship exception. Members present agreed to allow for a hardship exception going forward. No dollar amount will be set, but households can simply request a lesser amount from the RNA if they have a need.

City planning update – Brendan and Alana from the City of Springfield’s planning department engaged with the board on the UCD and planned developments.

Brendan said Planned Developments (PDs) don’t have to negate UCD rules, they can alter but not entirely scrap the requirements for the UCD. That will keep new projects more in line with the UCD. Jeff Barber asked whether specialized PDs could be conducted as pilot projects if development moves faster than formal review of the UCD would allow. Jeff Bentley said the neighborhood is frustrated that development won’t match what we expect and that developers are frustrated that the neighbor expectations, UCD, R-HD zoning and the comprehensive plan don’t all match up. Brendan said the city recognizes that neighborhood plans across the city are out of date. City staff has gone to City Council to make this a priority and have even started the hiring process to bring on a staffer to help with this (currently Alana is the only neighborhood planning staffer). Rountree could be the first out of the gate for an update.

RNA members asked how we might slow down the process until a review can be conducted. Brendan said an administrative delay is a way to hold development until such time that some planning could take place. It could go on the CC agenda as early as sometime in March. Laurel noted that we want developers to succeed and invest in the neighborhood in a way that makes sense for all concerned.

Nancy Dornan motioned to move forward on requesting the administrative delay from City Council, Jeff Barber seconded. Approved.

Brewery Update – Owner Curtis Marshall gave an update. Have purchased 1451 and 1459 E. Cherry to create Tie & Timber Beer Co., which will be a “neighborhood tap room.” Brewery would go into the old tanning salon and they will be looking to rent the other building to one or two businesses that have an idea that will support the existing business environment at Cherry & Pickwick. The brewery would not be a pub with a kitchen serving food. The City is recommending a text amendment to the UCD to add “micro brewery and tap room” to the conditional use list, so that they could then apply for such a use. The text would not allow for a bar or a production brewery; it would be written narrowly enough that it could only allow for a business such as Tie & Timber.

National Avenue development proposal – Developers recently held an open meeting about a proposed 4-story apartment building. Concerns were expressed about traffic increases on Page and Madison, especially given that the median on National prevents any way for residents of the new building to turn south. Jeff Barber said the difficulty lies in the fact that the block is split in half between R-HD and R-SF. Jeff Bentley and Laurel suggested we need a process to dialog with and guide developers. Brendan affirmed this approach rather than simply digging in our heels and saying NO. Concerns were also expressed about the rather anemic buffer zone between the HD and SF zoning, which will be low trees (under power lines) and a 6 ft. fence. There is little RNA can do prevent the development. Suggestion was made to ask for stormwater improvements and blocking traffic on Page and/or McCann in order for RNA to withhold opposition to the development.

Board meeting attendance – Anyone can attend and give input. Only paying members of RNA can vote.

Pit Bull ordinance – Zone 2 Councilman Tom Prater has asked RNA to weigh in since this issue has come up again and could be voted on later this year. No vote was taken in support or opposition. We will encourage neighbors to make their voice heard.

Facebook page – Mike Brothers passed out suggested changes to the RNA Facebook page “About” text. Changes will make it clear that membership is the same as the RNA itself and that the page exists for official business.

Other business – Neighborhood clean up day is proposed for May 6.

Adjournment – Laurel motioned to adjourn, Peggy seconded. Meeting adjourned at 9:45 p.m.

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The Website Is Getting Updates!

Our Neighborhood website is getting a fresh coat of paint. Updates and news coming soon.

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