An engineer’s plan to turn a run-down church gymnasium into apartments and build a subdivision has some Doling Park residents out in opposition.
The Springfield City Council took up a bill Feb. 6 that would rezone part of the Baptist Temple property off of Grant Avenue and Talmage Street for residential use. Initially, developer Mike Stalzer planned to build 42 townhomes, but changed his plan to lower the density and build 22 single-family homes. The planned development proposal calls for the Baptist Temple gymnasium to be retrofitted and made into an apartment building with 33 units.
The interior of the apartment building will include fitness and laundry facilities and some storage space for tenants. Stalzer estimates the gym was built sometime in the 1970s. It has fallen into a run-down state, and the church does not use it anymore, according to planning documents. The retrofitting plan calls for 16 efficiency units, 10 single bedroom units, and seven multi-bedroom units.
Drawings show entrances to the development are on North Missouri Avenue, a small north-south street between Grant Street and Broadway Avenue, and Talmage Street.
Laurie Brotherton lives nearby on Broadway Avenue, and is concerned with the apartment complex creating more traffic on Talmage Street, and Woodridge Street to the north. Watkins Elementary School is south of Baptist Temple, just west of the intersection of Talmage and Grant.
“During the times that parents are dropping kids off and picking them up, there’s cars lined up all the way down the street,” Brotherton said.
Fred Sherwood lives on Talmage Street, and he also spoke to the City Council about traffic at Wakins Elementary. He worries the apartments and 22 houses will add to existing issues with school traffic.
“I don’t believe that our schools can handle the type of traffic it’s going to have in this area, because the proposed drive off of Talmage cannot be widened because of the building and existing properties on the other side,” Sherwood said.
School traffic leaves ‘no room for error’
Sherwood said the school traffic is already a safety issue.
“During pickup and dropoff of school, there’s no room for error,” Sherwood said. “It’s not a good deal.”
Stalzer, the developer, said traffic engineers in the Springfield Department of Public Works examined the car count on Talmage Street, and that his development would not cause a significant increase in the number of vehicles on Talmage.
“The traffic study stated no improvements were needed, the traffic impact was negligible,” Stalzer said. “We proposed an entrance on Grant, and that was back and forth with the city on the first application, but the proximity of the entrance to the adjoining driveways was too close, so we couldn’t use it.”
Springfield Planning Manager Bob Hosmer explained the project and the traffic configuration to the City Council Feb. 6.
“There will be 22 single-family homes built in this location coming off a Missouri Avenue extension and with a private drive,” Hosmer said. “There will be no access to Grant, all of the access will be through Missouri or through Talmage.”
Hosmer also said the potential increase in traffic tied to the apartments and housing development would not be significant enough to warrant widening any streets.
Traffic increase not ‘significant,’ city staff says
“There was an increase, but it’s not a significant amount of traffic through that area,” Hosmer said.
The Springfield Planning and Zoning Commission voted 7-0 in January to recommend approval for the project. Baptist Temple is the property owner.
“I haven’t bought it yet,” Stalzer said. “If the rezoning goes through, then I have to exercise my option to buy the property.”
There also will be a private street serving the 22 houses, and Hosmer said it will be the responsibility of the homeowners in Stalzer’s development to maintain that street.
“There will be a homeowners association that will be set up to take care of all the common areas, including that street,” Hosmer said. “Of course, there could be issues with that, but that’s with any kind of development that a homeowners association takes on the responsibility of maintaining and taking care of the open space.”
Sherwood is also concerned about the shared public spaces in the development plan for people living in the apartments, which include a playground, a dog park, outdoor grills and a water detention pond. He’s also concerned about water runoff flooding streets and yards.
“I’m not opposed to the playground, but the detention pond — if it can’t handle the stormwater that we get, and we get massive amounts of rain on the north side of Springfield, it is going to flood into my backyard,” Sherwood said.
There are four residential lots immediately to the east of the Baptist Temple gymnasium, which sit at the southeast corner of Talmage and Grant Avenue.
The Springfield City Council is scheduled to take up the planned development zoning bill again and possibly hold a final vote on Feb. 21.