The developers of the proposed Brody Corners project withdrew two bills from the agenda of the Springfield City Council meeting Dec. 13.
When it was time to vote on measures related to the proposed retail, restaurant and office development at the intersection of Sunshine Street and James River Freeway, council learned the applicant had asked to withdraw the bills.
There is no indication whether the project proposal will come back to council.
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, according to Councilperson Mike Schilling. The project would have led to the cleanup of the property by the developer, legally organized as West Sunshine Development LLC.
Schilling said after the meeting he believed the project was pulled by the developer not because of the concerns expressed at a previous council meeting, but because of a Sunshine Law complaint filed by a Springfield resident.
Linda 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.
Schilling said, “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.”
West Sunshine Development 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.
“Apparently, they just want to make sure that they didn’t get disrupted,” Schilling said.
Simkins told Springfield Business Journal there was a motion at the Nov. 15 meeting to continue the meeting until Nov. 22 so that it could be properly advertised to the public; however, since the Nov. 15 meeting was illegal, that motion and vote were also illegal, she claims, and the city failed to prepare separate and complete minutes of the meeting, as required by Missouri law.
The attorney general has not yet ruled on the complaint.
City spokesperson Cora Scott told SBJ Missouri law was satisfied by the TIF Commission.
“Notice of the hearing regarding the Brody Corners matter satisfied the statutory requirements and was properly made,” Scott said.
Schilling said he had toured the property prior to a Dec. 6 city council meeting and saw where people had dumped mattresses, tires and shingles.
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.”
New city flag
Vexillologists were out in force at the council meeting, with 14 signed up to speak about a bill to adopt a new design for the Springfield city flag.
The bill had its first reading at the meeting, and on Jan. 10, council will decide whether or not to change the city’s flag from its 1938 design, which is the red, white and blue of the U.S. flag, with four stars and the words “Springfield Missouri” across it. The proposed new flag is a 2017 design, which is light blue and white and features a compass rose with a trio of four-pointed stars arrayed above it to represent the city’s connection with nature, entrepreneurial spirit and Ozarks culture. The new design also features a white stripe embodying Route 66 and the Ozarks plateau, with blue stripes on the top and bottom.
Most who spoke at the meeting were in favor of the new design.
Ben Thomas, co-owner of downtown’s Five Pound Apparel, said the new design is a big seller in his store.
“Every year we’ve added new products because there’s a clear demand for it,” he said. “We and our customers love it because it combines the symbolism of all the things we love about Springfield.”
Resident Lisa Meek expressed opposition, saying she had asked a number of random people at the Library Station if they wanted the city flag to be changed.
“Not a single person wanted to change it,” she said.
Some members of the Springfield Identity Project, which led the design of the new flag, were present to explain the collaborative process they took, as well as the impetus for creating it.
One of the members, John McQueary, co-owner of Hotel Vandivort, said the flag now has undergone a five-year beta test, and it is on display all over the city.
“It’s been out in the community – it’s connected,” he said.
A resident survey launched by the city in August had 4,350 total responses, and 72% of respondents favored the new flag. As of Dec. 15, a poll of 1,358 SBJ readers found 49% preferred the 1938 flag, with 38% preferring the new design and 13% wanting a different design altogether.
Traffic measure fails
A proposal by Councilperson Craig Hosmer to require the Springfield Police Department to respond to all motor vehicle accidents was defeated by a vote of 8-1, with Hosmer the only supporter.
His fellow council members expressed support in principle, while some noted that with a shortage of 51 officers, this is not the time to require police to respond to fender-benders where parties are amenable to handling the circumstances on their own.
“We are making it more difficult for police to do their jobs,” said Mayor Ken McClure, who also criticized Hosmer’s process for proposing the legislation without staff or council committee input.
“Process is indeed important. It’s how policy-making bodies like city council get things done.”
Hosmer remained firm about his proposed bill, however, saying the difference is having a department that is proactive rather than reactive.
“If we’re going to get a handle on crime in the city of Springfield, we’ve got to do proactive policing,” he said. “We haven’t done proactive policing, and crime is out of control. We have to do something different.”
Springfield Police Department Chief Paul Williams cited staffing concerns in his opposition to the proposed policy when it was introduced Nov. 29.
Other action items
Retro Metro changed ownership; print shop Grafpros expanded to Mount Vernon; and the new headquarters and third full-service branch in Springfield for Multipli Credit Union opened.