SPRINGFIELD, Mo.– Tempers flared up in a meeting discussing the potential rezoning of a historic Springfield neighborhood.
Over 50 residents lined up at Messiah Lutheran Church to voice concerns about traffic, homes and the property values near Sunshine and National.
The meeting was tense from the go. The developers said the meeting was a success, but many attendants weren’t so happy.
“To me, a stealth attack has occurred because they already have bought four adjacent properties in our neighborhood,” said Springfield resident Don Dunbar. “It’s already happened.”
Dozens of residents in University Heights met at a feedback meeting with developers looking to rezone land near the intersection of National and Sunshine. Many of the neighbors who arrived weren’t pleased.
“University Heights, it’s one of our historic neighborhoods of Springfield,” said resident Shanna Higgs. “So far, we have not been touched by a commercial zoning. And it’s something that, we do not want.”
“You’re coming into my residential neighborhood, wanting to have a significant part of it, rezone to commercial? And you’re not, you don’t have any idea what you want to do with it,” Dunbar said. “That’s a non-player.”
The developers, BK&M LLC, had already purchased property in the area, which neighbors didn’t like.
“The guys have bought up some properties, so they want to make some money. So they want to go commercial, and they want to rezone some residences into commercial space,” said Michael Cavin. “Unfortunately, tonight, we were all waiting for a revelation about, you know, what they wanted to do, and they don’t have anything. They don’t have any details.”
One developer, Ralph Duda, said he wants to do something good with the area.
“I drive by this, these properties all the time,” said Duda. For the past several years, I’ve seen that house just sit there and deteriorate. It’s been vacant for six years, it was on the market for three years. No one scooped it up. So I said, let’s do something positive.”
His business partner, area native and former NBA player Anthony Tolliver, said the meeting, while sometimes chaotic, was ultimately successful.
“We accomplished what we wanted to accomplish, which was literally come in here, get feedback from residents, get the positive and the negative right more, you know, just more about hearing their voices,” Tolliver said.
Higgs said the area deserves to be more than just a commercial space.
“It’s not just the homes, it’s the culture that exists,” said Higgs. “And it has existed now since the early 20s.”
No official decisions were made during the meeting, but the meeting ended short of its original time because a member of the crowd called Duda’s wife a derogatory word. Tolliver said they’ll go back to the drawing board and have more meetings in the future.
The president of the University Heights Neighborhood Association, who was not at the meeting, issued an apology to Duda this morning on behalf of the group. She said, in part: “Our neighbors are passionate about our neighborhood, but last night’s incivility was absolutely unacceptable. It in no way represents the attitude of our neighborhood association and the overwhelming majority of its more than 200 members. I hope the outburst hasn’t irreparably damaged discussions moving forward,” president Jan Peterson said.