Last edited 10:17 a.m., Dec. 15, 2021
The developers of the proposed Brody Corners project withdrew two bills from the agenda of last night’s Springfield City Council meeting.
When it was time to vote on two measures related to the proposed retail, restaurant and office development at the intersection of Sunshine Street and James River Freeway, City Clerk Anita Cotter told council, “I would like to make council aware that city staff received a request from the applicant to withdraw council bill 2021-317 and council bill 2021-318 from the agenda.”
Cotter added that she also received the request of the bill’s sponsor, Councilperson Mike Schilling, to withdraw his sponsorship.
“Therefore, we will not be considering these bills this evening,” she said.
Mayor Ken McClure affirmed that the bills were withdrawn by request of the applicant and then moved on with the meeting. No explanation for the withdrawal was stated, and there is no indication of whether the project will be reintroduced in the future.
The Brody Corners development project budget was $27 million, and the developer was asking the city to reimburse about 8% of that expense through tax increment financing. The property is blighted, with a polluted sewage lagoon that is impacting groundwater, Schilling previously said. The Brody Corners project would have led to the cleanup of the property by the developer.
At the Dec. 6 council meeting, Schilling expressed strong opinions about the lack of information provided on the extent of blight prior to a vote in June to annex the property located between Springfield and Republic into the city.
“The city manager did say that I had a valid point, and the different departments that were involved need to communicate better,” Schilling said this morning.
Schilling said his understanding was that the project was pulled by West Sunshine Development LLC not because of his concerns, but because of a Sunshine Law complaint filed by Springfield resident Linda Simkins.
Simkins filed a complaint with the Missouri attorney general to claim the city did not post a public meeting notice for a Nov. 15 hearing by the project’s TIF Commission.
“It’s fairly straightforward,” Schilling told Springfield Business Journal today. “As I understand it, the developer was concerned that this complaint that was filed about the process of the TIF decisions might be harmful and didn’t want to take a chance.”
Schilling said the agenda had already been prepared, and the developer made the decision that they didn’t want to take any action at all. West Sunshine Development LLC lists Mike Seitz as its registered agent with the Missouri secretary of state. Seitz has developed other properties in Springfield through Triple S Properties Inc., developer of Deerbrook Marketplace, according to past reporting.
“Apparently, they just want to make sure that they didn’t get disrupted,” Schilling said. “I don’t think it had anything to do with what I was concerned about with the city letting us know about the nature of the project.”
Simkins’ complaint stated, “Because the Nov. 15 meeting was held, although improper and in violation of law, the procedurally required meetings that followed and were predicated upon this meeting were improper and in violation of the law.”
Simkins told SBJ there was a motion at the Nov. 15 meeting to continue the meeting until Nov. 22 so that it could be properly advertised; however, since the Nov. 15 meeting was illegal, that motion and vote were not legal, she claims, and the city failed to prepare separate and complete minutes of the meeting, as required by Missouri law.
The AG has not yet ruled in Simkins’ complaint.
Simkins’ complaint said the city admitted its failure to properly meet posting requirements for the meeting. She quotes a resolution that states at the Nov. 15 meeting, “after determining that proper notice had not been posted for the meeting” in accordance with Missouri laws, the TIF Commission continued the hearing by motion to Nov. 22.
City spokesperson Cora Scott told SBJ that despite Simkins’ complaint, Missouri law was satisfied by the TIF Commission.
“After reviewing the facts, the Sunshine Law was satisfied as it pertained to the Brody Corners TIF project,” she said. “Notice of the hearing regarding the Brody Corners matter satisfied the statutory requirements and was properly made.”
Simkins said the whole process was not satisfactorily transparent, either to council or the general public.
“This is the Sunshine Law, and we do get nitpicky about it, and I think it was handled improperly,” she said.
Simkins’ complaint said city staff was working to achieve final approval by the end of the year, and she claims they purposefully chose to ignore the defect and held a meeting in violation of the law, rather than posting a new meeting, which would have required another 45-day time period.
In his comments to SBJ, Schilling raised the issue of whether Greene County has any responsibility for the property in question.
“A piece of property like that just in the county, does the county have any responsibility to let something like that just languish? Was there any concern about that being a magnet for more trouble, like dumping?” he asked. “That’s something worth looking into, I think – that kind of behavior.”
Schilling told council at its special meeting Dec. 6 that he had toured the property and seen where people had dumped mattresses, tires and shingles on the property.
The property once was the site of a trailer park, and several cracked and damaged concrete footers remain in place. The land was owned by the now-defunct RLB Properties LLC.
Schilling said it was a shame that the developer would have to pay to clean up the blight.
“It’s really troublesome, too, that somebody who comes along to pick up the pieces is saddled with the work and expense of cleaning up the mess that was left by a previous owner,” Schilling said. “It’s just unethical what they do, and they get by with it – but that’s that.”
Mercy Springfield Communities relocated a clinic; San Clemente, California-based law firm Gilson Daub Inc. expanded to the Springfield market; and a second video gaming center for Contender eSports Springfield LLC opened in the Queen City.