In response to a historic designation case last summer, Springfield City Council is considering changing the procedures for designating buildings to the Springfield Historic Register.
It’s a move that would involve property owners earlier in the process – an issue that arose last summer when an application for historic designation was filed in Galloway Village without property owner consent. Council voted in favor of the property owner at 3535 S. Lone Pine Ave. to deny the designation, according to past Springfield Business Journal reporting.
The amendment brought before council for a public hearing March 9 would require a notification letter to be sent through certified mail to the property owner 15 days before the application is submitted to the city. A second notification would be sent 10 days before the Springfield Landmarks Board public meeting, according to bill documents. Current law does not specify when notifications are sent.
If the owner protests the nomination, it would require a two-thirds council vote to pass.
“One of our concerns previously was that there really was not adequate notification to the property owner of a pending nomination,” Planning and Development Director Mary Lilly Smith said at the meeting. “And we were doing it by regular mail, so we didn’t have even the validation that they had received the notification.”
Another modification would alter the timeline for historic building demolition. Currently, the Landmarks Board can delay a permit to demolish a historic building for 60 days from the time the owner applies. But the proposal would change the timeline to reflect 60 days from an application for a certificate of appropriateness.
Landmarks Board Chairman Paden Chambers said the board approves of the proposed changes.
“We feel this is going to improve the process and make things more clear in terms of how nominations work,” Chambers said, adding the board has three historic nominations in the pipeline.
Council has added seven properties to the Springfield Historic Register in the last 20 years, according to past SBJ reporting. Last year, council heard a nomination for the former Katz City Drug Store and CVS Pharmacy building on South Glenstone Avenue, but it failed by a 7-1 vote.
At the recent meeting, Councilman Richard Ollis voiced concern for property owners’ rights.
“In some instances, historic property needs to be protected. … On the other hand, I believe in property owner rights,” he said, later asking Chambers how the council could create a balance between the two.
Chambers said he always expects a chance for opposition against the designation, adding the Landmarks Board works to help formulate plans with approval from all parties.
“In terms of placemaking, which I’ve heard a lot of with this new plan we’re working through, we need to decide: Is this something we feel strongly about in our community? I think it is,” Chambers said of preserving historic buildings.
City leaders have been focused on creating placemaking initiatives as they gather input and prepare the next comprehensive plan, Forward SGF. Additionally, the city brought on Tim Rosenbury, a former partner at BRP Architects, on March 2 to fill the newly created role of director of quality of place initiatives.
Council is scheduled to vote on the amendment March 23.
City loan rates
Council heard an ordinance to allow the city’s loan committee to lower interest rates of the city’s business development loan as the prime rate decreases throughout the year.
Sarah Kerner, the city’s economic development director, said the city’s loan rate is determined by calculating 50% of the prime rate, plus 1%. The current city rate is 3.75%, and now that the federal rate is down to 4.25%, the loan committee wants the ability to alter the city rate.
“The prime rate and our intentionally lower public finance rate are getting very, very close,” Kerner said. “We’d like to be able to (alter) it at an interim time period as needed to keep our rate steady along with the fed rate.”
The loan program was created to assist small businesses and nonprofits expand employment opportunities, stimulate private investment and eliminate blight in the community, according to the city website. Loans are issued to developers for acquiring property, new construction, rehabilitations and mixed-use developments. Kerner said if construction is involved in the project, prevailing wage must be paid.
Since the program began in 1984, the city has issued over 200 loans exceeding $32 million, according to bill documents.
“Since the economy has begun to recover from the recession, we’ve had a hard time making loans because there are more requirements for a loan program than just a loan from the bank. We require you to pay prevailing wage,” she said. “In order to offer these loans to businesses that need it, we want to remain competitive.”
Currently funded through revolving loan income, the program has $1 million in available loans, according to the bill. Council is expected to vote on the bill March 23.
A move to vacate a portion of North Sherman Avenue between Locust and Division streets for Springfield Public Schools’ construction of Boyd Elementary was presented to council after failing to pass the city Planning & Zoning Commission.
P&Z is typically the final authority on requests for vacating public right of way. But after the commissioners voted 4-1, Smith told council members the proposal was automatically denied without five votes. SPS officials requested an appeal, which brought the matter before council.
SPS owns the properties in question and would combine the lots to develop the new Boyd school, Smith said.
The project was approved in 2019 when voters passed a $167.7 million bond issue to fund 39 projects for the school district, according to past SBJ reporting.
SPS spokeswoman Teresa Bledsoe said in an interview that if the request is denied by council, school officials would have to redesign the layout of the school, which is expected to be completed by August 2021. Council will vote on the request March 23.
Other action items
• Council indefinitely tabled a proposal to rezone 0.69 acres at 3750 S. Campbell Ave. that was previously Willard Motor Co. BRP Architects partner Geoffrey Butler previously told council the property owner, TRB Kickapoo LLC, was considering a retail center on the lot if it was rezoned. Councilman Matthew Simpson moved to table the proposal at the applicant’s request, following the land to a new owner. Greene County Recorder Cheryl Dawson-Spaulding said in an email that the property had not transferred from TRB Kickapoo by press time.
• Council unanimously approved a conditional-use permit to allow an automotive service garage to operate in a general retail district at 3510 W. Sunshine St. off the intersection of West Sunshine Street and West Bypass. The applicant, Casey Boaz, is planning a Jiffy Lube store at the site, according to bill documents.
Builders predict costs will remain elevated well into 2021.
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