7 Brew Coffee has three franchise locations in Springfield, including one on East Sunshine Street near U.S. Highway 65. (Photo by Rance Burger)

Correction: An earlier version of this story misidentified the no votes in the rezoning decision. The no votes were from Craig Hosmer and Monica Horton.

You can visit three different 7 Brew Coffee drive-thrus in Springfield, but a spot at the corner of Sunshine Street and Jefferson Avenue won’t be one of them.

The Springfield City Council voted on two bills Tuesday night. They voted yes on a zoning change that allows limited business activity on a piece of land on Sunshine Street, but turned down a conditional use permit application (by a 1-8 vote) that would have paved the way for a drive-thru coffee shop to operate.

Reding Management owns a total of 1.08 acres of land on the southeast corner of Sunshine and Jefferson. The property sits across Jefferson Avenue from Jefferson Avenue Baptist Church, and across Sunshine Street from Sunshine Elementary School.

As it stands, a developer could build a coffee shop with a driveway off Jefferson Avenue, but they can’t legally operate a drive-thru window.

The council vote on July 25 came after developer Royce Reding asked for more time to consider the protests that surfaced at the idea of a 7 Brew store being placed where University Heights meets the Holland/Seminole neighborhood, but the City Council opted to vote on both bills.

The bill to rezone the property passed by a supermajority, a 7-2 vote with council members Craig Hosmer and Monica Horton casting the “no” votes. Councilman Abe McGull explained his “yes” vote on the rezoning bill, along with his decision to vote against the permit for a drive-thru operation.

“Their biggest concern was a drive-thru pickup window, so I think limited business addresses the concerns of the citizens,” McGull said. “But as for the second bill, the citizens had a strong resentment for the second bill, which would make it available for a drive-thru.”

A gravel drive in a vacant lot is sometimes used for surplus parking, but could be the spot where caffeine seekers turn from Jefferson Avenue to access a 7 Brew Coffee drive-thru. (Photo by Rance Burger)

Only Councilman Richard Ollis voted “yes” on the conditional use permit application for drive-thru operation.

On July 11, the Springfield City Council heard 19 speakers in a public hearing over two bills tied to a plan to put a 7 Brew Coffee location on the southeast corner of Sunshine Street and Jefferson Avenue. Ten of those speakers at the hearing were against the development, and nine spoke in its favor.

McGull said he was concerned that Reding asked for an extension on the council vote until Aug. 8, and felt Reding should have “an opportunity to be heard on this issue.”

Reding would have the option to apply for a conditional use permit to operate a drive-thru business again, with no time limit or waiting period based on Springfield’s ordinances.

Council debates how tight restrictions should be

Springfield ordinance allows a rezoning request or a permit request to be denied if the proposed use is found to have “a detritus impact on the health, safety and welfare of the public,” or if the use would cause “potentially adverse effects upon the community or other people within its vicinity.” By law, the procedure for finding these determinations is discretionary.

Ollis cited a piece of property at the intersection of Battlefield Road and Lone Pine Avenue, which sits vacant.

“We start restricting even our existing zoning codes to the point where, frankly, there are so many limited uses that can go on a corner like that, it really becomes counterproductive,” Ollis said. “What we’re really saying, I believe, in this is that we want that corner to be vacant and unproductive.”

Hosmer countered Ollis’ point by saying the council should want to help developers, but should also listen to the neighboring property owners.

“This property is zoned single-family residential; all of the property around it is zoned single-family residential,” Hosmer said. “You’re going to have traffic backed up all the way to Sunshine, you’re going to have traffic backed up down Jefferson. We’ve seen it before at Starbucks all over town.”

Hosmer said the Sunshine and Jefferson lot’s close location to Sunshine Elementary School, and the potential traffic issues that went with the coffee shop proposal, helped him make his choices.

“We’re trying to pigeonhole a project into a piece of property that doesn’t meet — it’s not the right size for that type of project, and I just think it’s a mistake,” Hosmer said. “We may turn ourselves into pretzels trying to figure out how to help this developer.”

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Back and forth discourse

7 Brew Coffee is based in Arkansas, and most of its 22 stores are owned by franchisees. According to its website, 7 Brew was “born from a desire to change drive-thru coffee into a fun, mind-blowing experience for everyone.” It serves coffee, sodas, smoothies, shakes and energy drinks.

Prior to the Monday night votes, the Springfield City Council received mixed recommendations for what to do. The Springfield Planning and Zoning Commission denied a rezoning request for the property on March 10. The City Council sent the rezoning request back to the Planning and Zoning Commission on April 4, after the developer modified the application to add 14 trees, seven evergreens and seven understory trees, to serve as a buffer between the business and the neighboring homes. Understory trees, by definition, are shorter trees that typically don’t grow taller than 50 feet of height.

The sole change Reding Management made to its rezoning and conditional use permit applications was to add the 14 trees along the south side of the property.

The city staffers who worked with the rezoning request and conditional use permit application for the drive-thru recommended the rezoning and permit for approval. The church elders at neighboring Jefferson Avenue Baptist Church expressed their support for the development.

On June 11, Springfield Director of Planning and Development Susan Istenes explained a “limited business” designation is for property that is next to residential property and has a use intended to serve people in the nearby residential area. It also functions as a transition between a residential area and a busier commercial area and is located along a major arterial road, like Sunshine Street.

Roanoke Avenue, seen here looking south from its intersection with Sunshine Street, is classified as a residential street. (Photo by Rance Burger)

If he could take one back

Prior to the votes on July 25, Springfield Mayor Ken McClure revisited a zoning case for an unrelated piece of property on South National Avenue. The property is zoned for single-family residential use, and the owner asked for a conditional use permit to start operating a bed and breakfast.

“Concern was expressed regarding the parking and the traffic,” McClure said. “In June of 2017, I stated that I would oppose the conditional use permit because it was a poor location for a bed and breakfast, and was concerned that the property may not be conducive for use as a single-family residence.”

The bed and breakfast bill failed by a 0-9 Springfield City Council vote.

“That property at 1755 South National is still zoned residential single family and is still vacant six years later,” McClure said. “I fear that we may make the same mistake again. If I had a vote to take back, that would be one that I would’ve taken back six years ago and voted differently.”

McClure voted to rezone the Reding property on Sunshine, but cast one of the eight votes against the conditional use permit that would have allowed a drive-thru on the property.

Four cars traveling north on Jefferson Avenue sit at the intersection with Sunshine Street, waiting for a green light. The cars are in the approximate 150 feet of street that could serve a 7 Brew Coffee store. (Photo by Rance Burger)

Longer plans and political ties

7 Brew Coffee represents the first phase of the Reding Management development. In the second phase, Reding Management plans to knock down two houses on Sunshine Street and build some type of commercial building or buildings. In the second phase, the developer would build a driveway from the property onto Roanoke Avenue. There are no plans for the coffee shop to have a driveway on Sunshine Street.

Reding is a former campaign manager and congressional staffer for U.S. Rep. Billy Long, R-Missouri. Along with James Nevins, Reding is one of the founders of Nevont, a human resources and benefits firm founded in Springfield in 2018.

Jared Enterprises developer Curtis Jared associated himself with the development group. Jared’s ties to Reding are established through Truth in Politics, a group that says it has no special interests — but paid for about $30,000 worth of attack ads in the spring elections for the Springfield Board of Education. Jared is the president and a director of Truth in Politics, as is Reding.

Jared told the City Council that the kiosks customers use to order coffee and drinks at 7 Brew stores are manufactured in Springfield. Therefore, Jared said, developing more 7 Brew stores creates jobs in Springfield and keeps people employed. He also highlighted the importance of quick service restaurants having drive-thru lanes in the modern economy.

“If you don’t have a drive-through in today’s world, now since the advent of COVID and everything, you’re going to have a hard time getting new retailers to come to the area if they cannot have a drive-through,” Jared said. “That is just a fact.”

What the zoning ordinance says

Springfield’s ordinance governing conditional use permits has 21 different points of law that a proposed use for land must pass in order for the owner to have a conditional use permit. In the case of 7 Brew Coffee’s drive-thru lanes and kiosks, the City Council had to determine that the drive-thru, “will not have any substantial or undue adverse effect upon, or will lack amenity or will be incompatible with, the use or enjoyment of adjacent and surrounding property, the character of the neighborhood, traffic conditions, parking, utility facilities, and other matters affecting the public health, safety and general welfare.”

“Health, safety and general welfare,” and sometimes, “health, safety and livelihood,” are clauses commonly found in zoning codes. They are also often used when opponents want to challenge a proposed change to land use.

Regarding traffic, Springfield’s code specifies that a proposed use, “will not adversely affect the safety of the motoring public and of pedestrians using the facility and the area immediately surrounding the site.”

When it comes to noise, and 7 Brew Coffee is known for playing music on exterior speakers, Springfield city code states that sounds related to the conditional use of land, “will not have noise characteristics that exceed the sound levels that are typical of uses permitted as a matter of right in the district.”

Other items found in the 21 points involve land and buildings having adequate driveway access, fire protection, utility access, a lack of light pollution and that the land use does not create added dangers of flooding or water damage.

Rance Burger

Rance Burger covers local government for the Daily Citizen. His goal is to help people know more about what projects their government is involved in, and how their tax dollars are being spent. He is a graduate of the University of Missouri-Columbia with 15 years experience in journalism. Reach him at rburger@sgfcitizen.org or by calling 417-837-3669. Twitter: @RanceBurger More by Rance Burger