SPRINGFIELD, Mo. — Hotel of Terror owner Sterling Mathis has taken the first steps in the referendum process.

“We had about 10 to 12 days to get the signatures that we needed, which we needed almost 1,600 signatures, and we did over 2,100 signatures in the time frame we had,” Mathis said.

Mathis said after Springfield City Council voted to declare the attraction as eminent domain, he hopes to put the issue to voters instead.  

“If they vote to keep it, I’ll stay where I’m at forever,” Mathis said. “I will never leave the place. But if they vote and I lose that, then the Hotel of Terror is out of business.”

Springfield City Council passed the eminent domain ordinance unanimously. 

“It just didn’t seem right. Almost like they just want to steamroll me over and throw me out, and I had nothing to say about it, and that really is aggravating,” Mathis added. 

Mathis says he’s met with the City of Springfield since that decision in February but the most recent offer in 2022 of $500,000 would go fast in his plans to relocate the business.

“Just to remove those silos [at the new building] and fix that roof — I’ve got a bid for $374,080, to be exact,” Mathis said. “Plus, you put the sprinklers on top of that. That’s going to be $100,000-$150,000. There’s your money right there without doing any work inside, without buying one too, before or painting one wall.”

Ozarks First reached out to the City of Springfield for the next steps in the process as well as any response to Mathis’ petition.

The statement issued by the city reads:

“The City has a process for referendum petitions set forth in the City Charter. Under the Charter, if a referendum petition is certified as sufficient, the ordinance specified in the petition is suspended. Council must vote on whether to repeal the ordinance within 30 days of the certification. If Council fails to repeal the ordinance, it must call a special election, and the ordinance will remain suspended unless the ordinance is approved by voters. If voters do not approve the ordinance, it is deemed repealed. 

“The condemnation process is not entered into lightly. It is only being considered after years of trying to negotiate agreement on a fair market value offer for property acquisition needed to be able to move forward to replace the failing Main Street Bridge. Throughout the negotiation process, the City has sought multiple third-party appraisals on the property to help determine “just compensation” for the building since the property owner continues to decline offers. The City has also hired a consultant that specializes in providing relocation assistance and the City will provide reimbursement costs for relocating his personal property to reestablish his business in a new, comparable building.” 

“They did get an appraisal, but they appraised it as a vacant building. I mean, is that a vacant building? It is an operating business for 45 years,” Mathis said.

Melissa Mathis, Sterling’s wife and co-owner of the attraction says the entire process has been stressful on their family.

“It’s been a lot, but it’s worth the fight. It’s worth it because it’s not right. What they’re doing is not right. We just want what’s fair,” Melissa Mathis said.