SPRINGFIELD, Mo. — Mark Fletcher has lived in University Heights for over two decades.
He says a crack in the road in front of his home was used as an imaginary net when teaching his daughter how to play volleyball years ago.
Fletcher, like others, is upset about a potential development at the corner of National and Sunshine.
That led to lawsuits against the developer of ‘The Heights,’ one centered around deed restrictions in the neighborhood.
“Everybody here has restrictive covenants in their deeds which prevent the construction of anything but a private residence or private dwelling,” Fletcher said.
What was once a fight against the developer has spilled over into the city’s rezoning process according to Fletcher.
“The city has refused to recognize those rights,” Fletcher said. “They’re proceeding to rezone a property that is protected by constitutionally protected property interests, and that means that the right of cross-examining must be accorded. Our neighborhood was not given the opportunity to provide any input into the commission as to those legal and procedural determinations. What you saw [at the April 6 Planning and Zoning meeting] was the city and the city attorney essentially acted as the developer’s advocates.”
Fletcher said he believes representatives for the neighbors should be able to cross-examine statements or presentations by city officials or third-party presenters during meetings where the development is discussed.
The city says you won’t see that in their meetings.
“Cross-examination is a legal term. These are not courtrooms. This is not a court proceeding. It’s a public meeting,” said Cora Scott, Public Information Officer for the City of Springfield. “We feel that we provide the opportunities that stakeholders need to get their point across to the commission.”
Fletcher agrees that cross-examination would be unorthodox but says it’s a unique idea because the deed restrictions, circumstances of this development and the neighborhood are also unique.
The homeowner told KOLR 10/FOX 49 that given the pending lawsuits against the developer, the city shouldn’t allow the rezoning process to continue.
The city responded by saying, “With deed restrictions, it’s clear that it’s a contractual arrangement. So, it’s civil in nature. Those contractual arrangements between individual neighbors need to play out in an actual court. That really is outside the purview of what the city is responsible for or even able to contemplate when other processes are moving forward.”
But Fletcher said he’s not giving up.
“We will be writing a letter to this commission demanding a rehearing that is in accordance with the aspects of due process,” Fletcher said. “I absolutely guarantee you that my wife and I will follow [with] a lawsuit to set aside that rezoning as violative of our constitutional rights.”
Scott says she’s confident the city has gone above and beyond what’s legally required in terms of gathering input from those affected.
Neighbors also voiced concerns about one member of the commission. Chris Lebeck recused himself from The Heights portion of the April 6 Planning and Zoning meeting.
KOLR 10/FOX 49 reached out to Lebeck, who says he removed himself from the discussion because he lives in University Heights. Lebeck said he has a similar deed restriction on his property and with the lawsuits and developments, he says he discussed the matter with the city’s legal team and decided to recuse himself.
The Planning and Zoning Commission is scheduled to discuss the development and vote at their next meeting April 20.