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Hotel of Terror owner collects enough signatures to suspend eminent domain. City Council must now repeal its earlier decision — or send it to voters.

Springfield city government is trying to use eminent domain to acquire the Hotel of Terror — photographed Feb. 6, 2023 — as part of its plans to spiff up the Jordan Creek area in order to attract downtown investment and address stormwater flooding issues.
Gregory Holman/KSMU
Springfield city government is trying to use eminent domain to acquire the Hotel of Terror — photographed Feb. 6, 2023 — as part of its plans to spiff up the Jordan Creek area in order to attract downtown investment and address stormwater flooding issues.

Eminent domain would allow the city to force a sale of the Hotel of Terror property, a Halloween destination downtown since the late 1970s. The city wants the Hotel of Terror location to become part of plans to improve the Jordan Creek area, as a way of drawing more investment downtown.

Editor's note: This report was updated 1:06 p.m. Friday, April 14 to include comments by Hotel of Terror owner Sterling Mathis. It was originally posted at 9:12 a.m. Friday.

An amended referendum petition by Sterling Mathis, owner of the Hotel of Terror in Springfield, has been verified by the Springfield city clerk, the city said Thursday.

Mathis is seeking to put the city’s purchase of his property through eminent domain before voters. City spokesperson Cora Scott said the Hotel of Terror building needs to be torn down to replace what she calls a failing bridge over Jordan Creek on Main Avenue.

Scott said city clerk Anita Cotter will notify city council on Monday that the amended petition is sufficient.

Under city charter, if a referendum petition is certified as sufficient, according to Scott, the ordinance specified in the petition is suspended. City council must then vote on whether to repeal the ordinance within 30 days of the certification. If it doesn’t, it must call a special election, and the ordinance will remain suspended unless it’s approved by voters. If it isn’t approved, it is deemed repealed.

The city entered into the condemnation process after Mathis said the money the city offered him for his property — $550,000 — wasn’t enough.

Scott said city officials have sought “multiple third-party appraisals on the property to determine just compensation for the building.”

KSMU reached Mathis on Friday morning. He said he's been trying to work with the city to get what he views as a fair price for his property.

"I'm not standing here going, 'I'm never moving,' you know," Mathis said. "[City officials are] the ones that put me in this position... Not me. I've been willing to work with them from the start."

Mathis says "we're going to beat them really easy," if city council chooses to let voters decide whether to repeal eminent domain over Hotel of Terror. (Again, council's other option is to vote whether to repeal within 30 days.)

Mathis added, "because everybody's been to the Hotel of Terror and nobody likes eminent domain. So, you know, it's a double whammy for them."

Mathis alleged that city officials "started out lowballing" their offer for the Hotel of Terror building, and he says they did not visit the facility to assign a dollar value to the building until after Mathis began publicizing a referendum petition.

He said, "I mean, they made those decisions without ever stepping one foot in my building looking at at anything of mine."

KSMU has reached out to the City of Springfield for a response to that allegation and will update this report when a response is received.

Michele Skalicky has worked at KSMU since the station occupied the old white house at National and Grand. She enjoys working on both the announcing side and in news and has been the recipient of statewide and national awards for news reporting. She likes to tell stories that make a difference. Michele enjoys outdoor activities, including hiking, camping and leisurely kayaking.