Voters decisively rejected a rezoning measure that would have cleared the way for a mixed-use development in Galloway Village adjacent to Sequiota Park.
In citywide polling yesterday, 70.5% said “no” to Question 1, and 29.5% were in favor with all 58 precincts reporting, according to the unofficial results from the Greene County clerk’s office. That equated to 13,754 votes for rezoning and 32,862 against.
Question 1 asked voters whether the city should amend its official zoning map to rezone 4.2 acres in the 3500 block of South Lone Pine Avenue to a planned development from a mixed designation of single-family residential, general retail and limited business district.
Developer Elevation Enterprises LLC, owned by the husband-and-wife team of Mitch and Amanda Jenkins, had proposed a development called Treadway that would have included 95 apartments leased at a top price point of $1,100 for a one-bedroom unit, plus ground-level retail and restaurant tenants, according to past reporting.
The development first was proposed by Elevation in summer 2018, but residents expressed concerns about its impact. Elevation applied for a change in zoning in July 2020, and that was recommended by a vote of the city’s Planning & Zoning Commission. Protest petitions were submitted, requiring a two-thirds majority vote by City Council to enact a zoning change, but that body passed the rezoning bill in September 2020. A referendum petition was filed a month later.
Council called for a special election to be held in 2021, but then Elevation filed a suit to stop the election. A trial court enjoined the election, but the Galloway Village Neighborhood Association appealed the ruling, and in June of this year, GVNA won its appeal, leading to yesterday’s ballot measure.
GVNA raised concerns about traffic and roads, stormwater runoff, loss of trees and historic buildings, and a changed character of the neighborhood. Elevation attempted to resolve some of the concerns, with plans to preserve trees, minimize runoff and invest its own money in road improvements. The scope of the housing portion of the development was reduced by a third following discussions with neighbors.
When asked for a comment today, Ron Boles, vice president of the GVNA, sent a graphic showing the biblical figure of David, a young shepherd, slaying the Philistine giant and military champion Goliath with a rock in a sling.
“We celebrate today the landslide victory from yesterday’s vote,” Boles said in a Facebook message. “We are under no illusion that our work is done here, though. Whatever comes tomorrow, Galloway will face it with the same amount of resolve.”
Jenkins replied to an email requesting comment by expressing his and Amanda’s excitement and optimism for the future.
"We would like to thank all of our supporters and people who took the time to vote today,” Jenkins said in the email. “We love Springfield and the Galloway area. We look forward to continuing our efforts to provide jobs and housing in our community."
Supporters of rezoning had leaned on an argument comparing Springfield to an Ohio city that had an unusual law requiring a citywide vote on all rezoning measures, as explained by Jenkins in an interview with Springfield Business Journal.
The comparison was an unlikely one based on the type, size and population trends of the cities. Eastlake is a small suburb of the city of Cleveland with a steadily declining population that numbered only 17,500 in 2021, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. By contrast, Springfield is an independent city with a 2021 population of 170,000 and a 6% population growth rate over the past decade, according to the Census Bureau.
Most notably, Springfield has no law requiring residents to vote on rezoning requests, and in fact residents seldom turn to the referendum option. Prior to yesterday’s vote, the city last proposed a referendum on zoning in 2013. That referendum, over the contentious issue of whether a Walmart Neighborhood Market should be located at the intersection of South Campbell Avenue and West Grand Street, never made it to a ballot, following a court decision allowing the plan to move forward.
In an interview prior to the election, SBJ questioned Jenkins on the logic of the Eastlake comparison.
“Even if we don’t go down the road of changing the city charter … I still think it will have a very strong cooling effect,” Jenkins said. “Numerous friends of mine who build restaurants and shopping centers and apartments are going to northwest Arkansas, Republic, Kansas City, Omaha [, Nebraska] and other cities. You go there and they’re just thrilled that you want to create more housing.”
He added, “There’s a sentiment in Springfield that is making development undesirable and challenging.”
Signs promoting a “yes” vote were prominent around the city in the yards of apartment complexes and rental units and in developer-owned lots. The effort also brought out a veritable who’s who of endorsements from city leaders.
Endorsers for the “Yes on 1” campaign – listed on the website as individuals by their names and titles – included Springfield Mayor Ken McClure; Matt Morrow, president of the Springfield Area Chamber of Commerce; Hal Higdon, chancellor of Ozarks Technical Community College; Clif Smart, president of Missouri State University; and Jeff Kester, CEO of the Greater Springfield Board of Realtors. The endorsement page of the Springfield United website lists 55 endorsers, most from the business community.
Jenkins has said he sees himself as a supporter of Sequiota Park, which is why he seeks to develop next to it. In fact, he told SBJ he proposed to Amanda at the park, and he liked to picture the couple and their children enjoying the area from an outdoor cafe table at an eatery across from the special spot.
A pair of area medical colleges that received state grant funding in the fall are now investing the funds toward technology and new programs with the intent of attracting more students to the nursing profession.