To address the city’s nuisance properties, a resolution passed by Springfield City Council on Aug. 21 will require quarterly reporting of data related to property offenses as well as top offenders.
The resolution received unanimous approval of the governing body after 15 speakers offered only support for the measure.
The resolution directs the city manager to report specific data points to council at the end of each calendar quarter, beginning with an initial report within three months of the council action.
The data will include the number of nuisance property notices and the median length of time for closure. The top 20 owners of nuisance properties also will be reported with the number of times each has been cited in the past five years.
“While this is primarily a data request that will provide us with boots-on-the-ground analysis and understanding of the situation throughout our city and by council zone, the solutions that are based off this data must come from the combined experience and knowledge of the nine of us, including myself, and the continued involvement of the entire stakeholder group that I’ve managed to pull together so far,” Councilmember Brandon Jenson said in his introduction to the resolution, which he sponsored with Coucilmember Monica Horton.
He added that only with solid data can solutions be crafted, including targeted enforcement and incentive programs.
In an interview prior to the council meeting, Jenson said the nuisance property problem has grown over the past couple of decades. The city’s Nuisance Property Work Group reported in May that there were 17,803 code complaints 2015-20, and the city had 2,000 structures in poor, deteriorated or dilapidated condition.
Jenson noted some nuisance property issues are the result of negligence, while others may be based on a business model that is built on providing substandard housing. Data will help the city to determine how best to provide tools, whether incentives or enforcement measures, to reduce the problem.
One speaker offering support for the resolution was Brandon Biskup, chair of the work group’s subcommittee on incentives for investment for the city’s nuisance property initiative. Biskup emphasized the social impact of the measure.
“We’ve got thousands of residents in our community that don’t have safe housing and, for one reason or another, are locked into these arrangements where they have unsafe housing and don’t have standard quality of housing to go to,” he told council. “Going at this from a social aspect is imperative.”
Alice Barber, a leader of Springfield Tenants Unite, said some residents may be concerned that addressing nuisance properties will reduce the affordable housing supply, increase rent costs or increase homelessness.
Barber said it is possible to create policies that prevent retaliatory evictions, provide relocation assistance for tenants living in dangerous conditions and support landlords’ efforts to repair properties to keep them affordable for low-income tenants.
Horton noted the resolution amplifies the two-year effort of the nuisance property work group in a city with a low homeownership rate. U.S. Census figures from 2017-21 put the city’s owner-occupied housing rate at 42.9%.
“Our vote would pick up the baton where our predecessors left off,” she said.
Improvements and maintenance to the Cooper Park/Lake Country Soccer Complex and the Killian Softball Complex will be supported with grant funds of $13.5 million in state American Rescue Plan Act funds that council accepted, along with $631,000 in a local match from the Springfield Convention & Visitors Bureau Inc.
Council OK’d an additional match of $5 million in general fund carryover dollars.
The Missouri General Assembly appropriated the funds from the Coronavirus State Fiscal Recovery Revenue Replacement Fund through the state Department of Economic Development. The legislature designated the funds for the Springfield complex by specifying it be reserved for a park and sports complex located on 127 acres in a city with more than 160,000 but fewer than 200,000 inhabitants and requiring a local match.
The city previously authorized $7.3 million in its own direct ARPA allocation, plus $1 million from the city’s park fund.
The proposed project budget is $27.4 million. Planned improvements to the soccer complex would bring the number of synthetic turf fields to eight and add seating, concessions, restrooms and locker rooms.
For the baseball and softball complex, planned improvements include the addition of synthetic turf, spectator seating, dugout areas, lighting, restrooms, a fan concourse area and concessions.
Officials envision the soccer complex as an anchor tournament facility that could increase community spending by up to $32 million per year, while the baseball and softball complex could increase local tourism spending by an estimated $6 million per year, according to the funding agreement with the state.
“This is probably one of the best economic development things that I think this council has done in a long time,” said Councilmember Craig Hosmer.
He added that the investment would bring sports tourism and new revenue to the city. “This is broad-based economic development, and I think it’s something that’s going to raise all ships,” he said.
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