University Heights controversy: Planning & Zoning delays vote on Be Kind & Merciful development rezoning plan
After hours of discussion Thursday night, Springfield Planning & Zoning Commissioners voted to delay deciding whether a controversial University Heights rezoning proposal should be forwarded on to City Council.
"We all know no one wants to live at the corner of National and Sunshine. No one wants their child playing in their front yard when that is bordered by National and Sunshine. No one wants to try to back out onto National and Sunshine from their driveway. So the conversation was: What could go here?”
That’s Bryan Fisher, lawyer for Be Kind & Merciful developers. They’rethe group behind a controversial 2.7-acre proposal for the land catty-corner from Mercy Hospital.
Be Kind & Merciful’s rezoning plan faced a lot of skepticism at the Planning & Zoning meeting Thursday night. At least 15 neighborhood residents spoke to oppose the idea. University Heights Neighborhood Association president told Ozarks Public Radio after the meeting that some 40 neighborhood supporters turned out to oppose rezoning.
After the debate, the commission decided they needed more time to think things over. Following an initial tie vote, they voted 5-to-3 to debate again, and vote again, at their next meeting.
Here’s Commissioner Bruce Colony.
“I’m not saying it can’t be an activity center and that it couldn’t someday be general retail, but I can’t make that assessment now, based on what I know, and based on what I’ve just been bombarded with in the last seven days.”
The City of Springfield’s new comprehensive landuse plan — much like the previous one adopted 19 years ago — calls for promoting so-called “activity centers” that often blend businesses with apartments, sometimes doing so with “transitional” structures near clusters of single-family homes.
Here’s resident Courtney Fletcher covering one of the neighborhood’s key arguments against BK&M.
“The point that everyone’s missing is: Is the proposed rezoning lawful? And I think there’s a reason he talked about the history of the property. The history is the deed restrictions. And that is the reason why this development has remained single-family residential. Because there are deed restrictions. University Heights was platted in 1925 by Eloise Mackey.”
Whether those 98-year-old sale deed restrictions can stick is currently being litigated in court. The city’s position is that they won’t enforce the deeds without a court order.
Planning & Zoning meets again on April 20. If they recommend the BK&M plan, it will go to City Council for a final decision.