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City Beat: Council approves $86K for COVID-19 efforts in city, county

Updated design guidelines also were adopted for future construction in the C-Street area

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Springfield City Council on April 20 unanimously passed an emergency bill authorizing a partnership with Greene County to allocate a collective $86,000 for community efforts to fight COVID-19.

The agreement outlines allocations of up to $50,000 by the city and up to $36,206 by Greene County for joint purchases of COVID-19 supplies, equipment and services. The funds will be used by the Springfield-Greene County Office of Emergency Management, according to bill documents.

Cora Scott, spokeswoman for the city of Springfield, said the money will be used for a broad range of services to address community needs during this time, from purchasing personal protective equipment to providing rental space for homeless people.

The agreement also requires the city funds only be put toward expenses within city boundaries.

City Finance Director David Holtmann told council members the $50,000 already was included in the city’s budget as a contingency line item. He also said the finance department was identifying ways to reduce the city’s current spending to help mitigate the loss of potential sales tax revenues due to the stay-at-home order.

On April 21, Mayor Ken McClure announced during a news conference that the city was beginning a phased approach to reopen businesses. Businesses that were previously deemed nonessential – such as florists, clothing stores and tobacco shops – are now able to offer curbside pickup and delivery options.

During the council meeting held by videoconferencing, Councilman Andrew Lear asked if the council should anticipate any other COVID-19-related funding requests or allocations through the fiscal year end on June 30. City Manager Jason Gage said he was unable to anticipate further funding at this time.

“Part of the reason we’re asking to establish this partnership with Greene County is really to be a little bit more agile in case we do get a request that’s directly related to COVID-19 response to our community and need to get funding fairly quickly,” said Gage. “At this point, I wouldn’t anticipate that we would spend all of these collective dollars. But if so, if there’s a need for further funding, we’ll certainly come back and make that ask of council.”

By press time, 92 cases were confirmed in Greene County and eight deaths were reported, according to the Springfield-Greene County Health Department website.

Rezoning requests
Near West Chestnut Expressway and North West Bypass, 13 acres of undeveloped land could be rezoned for a manufactured home community district. Property owner D.W. Daniel Inc. applied for the rezoning request with the city, and council is anticipated to vote on the request on May 4.

According to notes from a neighborhood meeting with developer representatives, the land will be used to create approximately 100 rental units. Springfield Planning and Development Director Mary Lilly Smith told council members the MHC zoning allows a maximum of eight housing units per acre.

Property owner and applicant Donald Daniel of D.W. Daniel Inc. said an undisclosed developer is planning to build modular homes on the property.

Bill documents indicate Anderson Engineering Inc. has been hired for the project at 3859 W. Maple St.

In another request, council voted to rezone 43 acres at 2401 E. Sunshine St., where SRC Electrical, a division of SRC Holdings Corp., operates.

The applicant, Southwest Missouri Investments Inc., sought the change to industrial commercial zoning from heavy manufacturing. Planning documents note the change would enable commercial and retail development along Sunshine Street.

SRC founder Jack Stack is an organizer of the ownership group, according to state records.

Dick Moger, executive vice president of SRC Holdings, said the company does not have any plans for development at this time.

“We’re just trying to be prepared,” he said. “Successful people look down the road, 3, 5, 10 years, and that’s what we’re trying to do.”

Design guidelines
Council also unanimously adopted an updated version of the Commercial Street Historic District Design Guidelines, which outlines parameters for new construction in the district.

The approved guidelines say construction should follow the consistent orientation of buildings along the street, be similar in height, scale and exterior finishing, and offer ground-floor retail and commercial space. The revisions also include details related to acceptable window treatments.

The guidelines are a component of the Commercial Street Historic District Development Plan, which was passed in 1982. The district, which is on both the National Register of Historic Places and the Springfield Historic Register, runs from Lyon to Washington avenues. The designation makes the district – including exterior alterations – subject to city Landmarks Board review, according to bill documents.

Along with the Secretary of Interior’s Standards, the design guidelines are used by applicants, architects and contractors to submit project proposals for evaluation and approval by the Landmarks Board. The parameters are intended to preserve the district’s historic significance while facilitating economic revitalization, according to bill documents.

Smith told council members the nearly 40-year-old guidelines were outdated.

“There are several vacant lots in the district and so we thought it was important to recognize what should be considered when considering new construction,” Smith said. “It’s not intended to discourage contemporary architecture, but new construction should recognize some of the rhythms that are important to the district.”

Other action items
• Council gave the green light for the city to create a preliminary funding agreement between the city and The Kraft Heinz Food Co. (Nasdaq: KHC) for a potential $48 million in improvements to the Springfield plant. At the April 6 meeting, council approved a resolution of intent to enter into an agreement with the company. Bill documents indicate the work to create the agreement would cost the city $50,000 in legal fees. Kraft Heinz has asked to receive the funding for improvements through Chapter 100 industrial revenue bonds. The company is considering expansion of product lines and manufacturing equipment upgrades at its Springfield plant and others in the system.

• Council gave first reading to a proposal for an election on Aug. 4 regarding short-term loan businesses. Voters would be asked to decide whether the city should impose a permit fee for payday loan companies. The fees would be $5,000 a year or $2,500 for permits issued for less than half a year, according to bill documents. Council plans to vote May 4.

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