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‘Huge mistake’ — Neighborhoods unhappy as Springfield City Council delays consideration of National-Sunshine development moratorium

Residents storm out of council
Gregory Holman/KSMU
Springfield residents on Jan. 23, 2023 stormed out of City Council chambers after Council voted 6-to-3 to send a 210-day development moratorium in the controversial Sunshine-National area to a Council committee for further debate. Residents said Monday night that they planned to share their views on the development moratorium proposed by Councilman Craig Hosmer.

Springfield City Council took up a divisive proposal to delay development along parts of Sunshine Street and National Avenue — before sending it to a four-member committee for more debate.

As he left Springfield City Council on Monday night, David Trippe — president of Phelps Neighborhood Association — said he wasn’t happy.

“No, I am not," Trippe told Ozarks Public Radio. "And neither are five other neighborhoods. This was a huge mistake because we have had a good relationship with the city.”

Trippe was part of a group of roughly two dozen city residents attending City Council Monday night who stormed out of the chamber mid-meeting.

Multiple voices clamored:

“So we don’t get to speak?

“We don’t get to speak.”

“We’re here to speak!”

“You had a whole room full of people here to speak.”

In response, Mayor Ken McClure began saying, “The bill’s been referred to the Plans & Policies Committee, and that —”

But residents continued to talk amongst themselves, with one saying, “So come on,” as they exited the room.

The residents came to the meeting to share views on a proposal by Councilman Craig Hosmer that would impose a 210-day moratorium on city development approvals in a specific part of town.

The delay would affect more than 200 properties along the Sunshine and National corridors — where they border the University Heights neighborhood.

University Heights Sunshine National Administrative Delay Area
Gregory Holman/KSMU
Amid controversy over the proposed development known as "The Heights," a bill proposed by Springfield City Councilman Craig Hosmer would delay development of 208 properties along the Sunshine Street and National Avenue corridors for 210 days so city staff can weigh public feedback on the corridor's future design, in keeping with Forward SGF planning.

But before meeting attendees could have their say, Council voted 6-to-3 to send consideration of the 7-month delay back to Council’s four-member committee for plans and policies — cutting off public comments before they could begin.

Councilmen Abe McGull and Matt Simpson made the motion, saying the proposal needed more consideration.

The vote followed a tense exchange between Hosmer and City Manager Jason Gage, who oversees city staff and reports to the Council.

Hosmer complained that a draft of his resolution indicating city staff supported a proposed delay — had been changed since January 17 to reflect staff opposition.

Hosmer asked, “Have you met with the neighborhood, University Heights?”

Gage replied, “No.”

Hosmer then asked, "Have you met with any of the neighborhoods in the City of Springfield?”

Gage answered, “As a whole neighborhood, no.”

Hosmer said, “There’s a reason the neighborhoods in this community feel like they’re getting the short end of the stick. Because the developer has your ear, the developers have the ear of Council, and neighborhoods don’t.”

Without referencing Hosmer by name, Councilmen Ollis and Lear pushed back at his criticisms. Ultimately, only Councilmembers Horton, Hosmer and Schilling voted against sending the proposed 7-month delay on Sunshine and National development back to committee.

Meanwhile, for months University Heights residents have resisted a developer’s plan to put a big mixed-use complex at a key intersection catty-corner to Mercy hospital.

White house at Sunshine Street and National Avenue, along with other nearby houses.
Gregory Holman/KSMU
Five central Springfield properties located near the intersection of Sunshine Street at National Avenue, including this house demolished in late 2022, are part of a big proposed mixed-use complex known as "The Heights." University Heights residents oppose the proposal by BK&M LLC.

Hosmer’s resolution would have allowed city staff to put development in that area on pause. The idea would be to gather input from the public to ensure new projects along those roads match the, quote, “holistic vision” embodied by the city’s new comprehensive plan, Forward SGF.

According to the city website, the next meeting of the City Council Plans & Policies Committee, which includes Councilmembers Ollis, Lear, Hosmer and McGull, is scheduled for 2 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 16.

Gregory Holman is a KSMU reporter and editor focusing on public affairs and investigations.