SPRINGFIELD, Mo. — Hotel of Terror owner Sterling Mathis turned in what he believes is enough petition signatures an hour before they were due Monday afternoon.

“What I want to accomplish is for the city council to either rescind or recall the [ordinance] taking my property by eminent domain and let’s do it the right way,” Mathis said.

Mathis initially turned in over 2,100 signatures, but was told only about 1,500 were valid.

Following Springfield City Charter, the number needed was ten percent of registered voters who took part in the April 2022 election.

He was given ten more days to submit the 401 additional signatures.

“We did 869 this go-around,” Mathis said. “We should have plenty.”

If he falls short of the number needed, there is no third round.

Mathis says he recently took city officials on a tour of the Hotel of Terror in an effort to show them the complexity of the building.

“Now they understand that it’s not moving a desk and moving in a file cabinet. It’s built into it. The building is the attraction,” Mathis said. “It’s going to be very difficult to redo that somewhere else.”

Mathis has been going through the referendum process after the Hotel of Terror was deemed eminent domain following a Springfield City Council vote.

At the council meeting in February 2023, Councilman Andrew Lear said before voting, “This is not a taking [of the property], it is that the party would be able to receive fair value.”

KOLR 10/FOX 49 reached out to city officials who referred back to a previous statement:

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 If voters do not approve the ordinance, it is deemed repealed.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 acquisiting 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.

Kristen Milam, Communication Coordinator for the City of Springfield

Mathis says if the issue is on a ballot, and Springfieldians vote to remove its eminent domain status, he will stay in that location forever.

If the signatures are certified, Springfield City Council will have 30 days to repeal the eminent domain ordinance.

If they choose not to do that, it heads to a special election.