SPRINGFIELD, Mo. — Springfield City Council’s meeting on May 22 lasted nearly four hours.
The nine-member body discussed a multitude of topics, including three issues that have either become hot topics in Springfield or could become more popular over the summer.
National and Sunshine moratorium
The first of those three was a bill that would introduce a moratorium for the corridor of National Avenue and Sunshine Street.
Council Craig Hosmer, who sponsored the bill, originally allowed it to go to the city’s Policy and Plans Committee.
However, when introduced back in front of the city council, a city employee fielding questions on the committee’s findings admitted that the committee had not met once while the bill was on their plate.
“It was sent to the Plans and Policies Committee by vote of City Council but Plans and Policies Committee never met on it,” the employee said.
“They never met in January. They never met in February. They never met in March. They never met April. And they never met in May,” Hosmer grilled the employee in response.
“They haven’t met on this topic, and then I believe I’m not sure of what happened, but I think there was some action taken to delay it,” that employee responded.
The moratorium would have halted any potential applications to construct, destroy and zone any area in that corridor, but a representative for the City of Springfield tells me that would not have affected the University Heights development even if it passed.
Eleven members of the public spoke, including Evelyn Mangan, who lives in University Heights.
“The neighborhood has been provided with no sense of security whatsoever about what the development may entail and no basis upon which to undertake any meaningful discussion with either the city or the developer,” Mangan said.
City council voted down the moratorium 5-4.
Councilman Abe McGull was one of the five who rejected the measure and spoke about the process and how the moratorium would hurt that process.
“This measure was circumventing that process. I’m a process person. I’m a lawyer and I do believe in due process. Every citizen worker, no matter what color they are, their gender, national origin, they have a right to go through that process that we’ve established for them to say, ‘Hey, this is your American dream, and whatever that dream may be, you deserve a vote on at planning and zoning or council.'”
Recreational Marijuana Tax Issue
The next of the three was an emergency bill added to the agenda, that would add a 3% sales tax to recreational marijuana sales if passed by voters.
The city says the money from that tax would go towards public safety, housing and substance abuse and mental health services.
The bill passed and Springfield voters will see that issue on a ballot on August 8.
The issue, a rezoning of several homes near the corner of National and Sunshine has been a hotbed of debate for almost a year now.
The developer, Ralph Duda, had made a request last week to have the city council send this ordinance back to Planning and Zoning, saying they had made changes.
Councilman Hosmer referred to Councilman McGull’s opinion of “due process” when voicing a distain towards the idea of sending the issue back down the chain.
“We talk about due process all the time. This is not due process. When the developer can tell us what to do and we send it to, we send it back and back and back until they get something that they get it. Planning and Zoning Commission that finally gets tired of dealing with this point and passes it. This isn’t planning the city of Springfield,” Hosmer said.
The tension built up when Councilman Hosmer pressed city staff about how often they met with developers and neighbors regarding this potential development as it now heads back to Planning and Zoning.
Below is a transcribed part of that interaction.
Planning Employee: No, we haven’t seen an actual plan. We have just written confirmation of things that they would like to amend, such as the building height, the landscape buffer, and they’ve described them in writing, but we haven’t seen an actual layout for.
Hosmer: How long are we going to go back to planning and zoning?
Planning Employee: What do you mean, how long?
Hosmer: Well, how long will that process take?
Planning Employee: Well, I guess it depends on planning and zoning, but they did spend two meetings on it last time, so I would assume one meeting should cover it. I think there’s three changes, but that’s just an assumption.
Hosmer: And has Planning and Zoning met with the developers. Have you met with the developers?
Planning Employee: We have discussed it. Well, I think we just you know, we had, we had a brief phone conversation about the changes they wanted to make and then they emailed us.
Hosmer: How many times have you met with the developers?
Planning Employee: Oh, boy. Maybe three. Four.
Hosmer: Who was, who was at those meetings?
Planning Employee: City staff.
Hosmer: Which city staff?
Planning Employee: Well, planning staff, for sure, but some. Some of the meetings contained public works, environmental services, building development services. It really depends on …
Hosmer: Was anyone anywhere from the manager’s office?
City Manager Jason Gage: Councilman, if you’d like to ask me if the manager’s office attended a meeting with the developer, it’s okay to do that. I will go ahead and answer that question. And no, we have not met with the developer regarding the development.
Hosmer: You’ve never met with the developer?
Gage: Not regarding the development. There’s another matter. [Crowd begins laughing] Well, people can laugh all they want, which is disrespectful. I’m going to say there was a matter in which the developer had a concern. It’s unrelated to the specifics of the development.
Hosmer: What was that meeting?
Gage: I’m not going to disclose that in a public meeting. We can talk separately on that.
Other members of city council made comments including Derek Lee.
“I’m one of nine. I don’t pretend to be any more than that, but from my perspective, it would be much more significant these changes if you met with the neighborhood and you got some buy-in from them. They may want something different than that,” Lee said.
Another tense interaction happened as Hosmer, seemingly joking back to the moratorium asks, “Could I have a substitute motion to refer this to plans and policies?”
McClure, slightly laughs then bangs the gavel twice after the crowd erupts in laughter, then says, “Please, no public display.”
Hosmer ended the council’s comments.
“They [Planning and Zoning] rejected 7Brew several times and we just kept sending it back until planning and zoning did something else or we passed it. We’ve got to either be advocates for neighborhoods or we’re advocates for developers, but it seems like we’re all one-sided. This deal was done before it ever came up to council tonight.”
Council then voted to send the issue back to Planning and Zoning.