A house on East Sunshine owned by BK&M (adjacent to its now vacant lot at at South National and East Sunshine) remains empty. (Photo by Jym Wilson)

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Days before the Springfield City Council is slated to hold a public hearing on a rezoning application in University Heights, developer Be Kind and Merciful (BK&M) has asked for its case be remanded back to the Planning and Zoning Commission in order for changes to be made.

A public hearing for the controversial rezoning application is on the agenda for the May 22 City Council meeting, as well as a request from Councilmember Craig Hosmer for the City Council to reconsider the moratorium on development he previously tried to implement on certain parts of the University Heights neighborhood, which was sent to the council Plans and Policies Committee.

BK&M member Ralph Duda III photographed on the company’s corner lot property at the intersection of S. National and East Sunshine in Springfield, MO, on April 4, 2023. (Photo by Jym Wilson)

The rezoning application is for approximately 2.6 acres of property located at 1739, 1745 and 1755 S. National Ave., 1138 E. University St. and 1111, 1119, 1133 and 1141 E. Sunshine St. from single-family residential district to general retail district, and establish a new conditional overlay district (COD).

A COD doesn’t require a site plan, and is “intended to allow a floating zone to be established as an overlay to a base zoning district.” It does limit some land uses, establish particular design standards and incorporates some conditions laid out by city planners. 

In his request for changes, Ralph Duda, one of the primary partners of BK&M, said there are concessions to the COD, according to a news release from the City of Springfield. The changes listed in the release include:

  • Total height of building to be reduced from 75 feet to 55 feet.
  • Building a masonry wall as opposed to a 6-foot wooden fence along the perimeter of the BK&M property, with the wall separating the development from surrounding homes.
  • Planting 60-70 non-deciduous evergreen trees in the buffer yard, along the perimeter of the BK&M property. Trees are to be planted 8-10 feet apart, and each tree is to be a minimum of 12 feet tall when planted. An irrigation system will be installed to ensure maintenance, life and growth.  
  • Trees will fill out to create a barrier. In 3-5 years, these trees are anticipated to reach heights of 20-25 feet tall.

In order to consider the rezoning application with Duda’s proposed changes, the City Council must remand the case back to the Planning and Zoning Commission, which overwhelmingly recommended denial in early April, despite the recommendation of approval from city staff.

However, the decision to rezone the property ultimately rests with the City Council. 

If the City Council wishes to continue with the rezoning application on Monday night, it will have to be in its current form, without the proposed changes, and the council would take a vote in a future meeting after the public hearing.

The rezoning application, and the renderings of a potential development at the corner of National Avenue and Sunshine Street, has been met with opposition from University Heights residents since it was proposed in August. 

Some neighbors even filed a lawsuit against BK&M, citing nearly 100 year old deed restrictions in University Heights in their attempt to keep the entirety of the neighborhood zoned as single-family residential. A bench trial has been set for Aug. 28, with Judge Michael Cordonner presiding over the case.

B, K & M, LLC (Be, Kind & Merciful) was cited on May 2, 2023 for violation of Section 74 of the City of Springfield code as it pertains to “overgrowth, i.e. maintaining acceptable height of vegetation on a property.” The property was mowed on May 8, two days before the company would have faced further action by the city. (Photo by Jym Wilson)

Jack McGee

Jack McGee is the government affairs reporter at the Springfield Daily Citizen. He previously covered politics and business for the Daily Citizen. He’s an MSU graduate with a Bachelor of Science degree in journalism and a minor political science. Reach him at jmcgee@sgfcitizen.org or (417) 837-3663. More by Jack McGee