Minutes for the Springfield Planning and Zoning Commission

Date: July 23, 2009
Time: 7:00 P.M.

The regular meeting and public hearing of the Planning and Zoning Commission was held on the above date and time in City Council Chambers, third floor of City Hall with the following members and personnel in attendance: Jack Wheeler-Chair, Ed Alden, Peggy Hedrick, Ray Shermer, King Coltrin, Shelby Lawhon, Jay McClelland, Matthew Edwards,  Mike MacPherson, Principal Planner, Planning and Development, Mary Lilly Smith, Economic Development Director, Matt Schaefer, Senior Planner, Nancy Yendes, Assistant City Attorney; ABSENT: Michael Sutton.

APPROVAL OF MINUTES:          

The minutes for June 25, 2009 were approved unanimously.

COMMUNICATIONS:

Mike MacPherson said Mr. Rognstad has requested a task force be formed to respond to Commission on the Urban Gardens Discussion at the previous meeting.  Committee members are being selected from those that spoke at the previous meeting with Mr. Wheeler taking the role as chair.  This task force will come up with a recommendation that will be presented to Commission at a later date.  Staff anticipates this task force meeting for approximately 4-6 weeks.

Mr. MacPherson said Mary Lilly Smith will be presenting Items 1 and 2 on the Consent Agenda and Matt Schaefer will be presenting Item 3, Amendment to the Brick City Redevelopment Plan.

Mr. MacPherson said there are two representatives from the sign industry present to address Item 4, Sign Task Force. 

FINALIZATION AND APPROVAL OF CONSENT ITEMS:
(These consent cases will be approved by Commission unless a Commissioner or someone else wishes to speak to them.  If so, those cases will be moved to the appropriate place on the agenda and they may be spoken to, and voted on, at that time.)    

  1. Request to Dispose 484                                                         City of Springfield

(200 & 600 blks N Boonville and 521 N Jefferson)

 

  1. Request to Dispose 485                                                         City of Springfield

(500 N Jefferson)

 

Edwards made the motion to approve the Consent Agenda.  McClelland seconded the motion. Motion carried as follows: AYES: Wheeler, Hedrick, Shermer, Coltrin, McClelland, Edwards; NAYS: None; ABSTAIN: None; ABSENT: Alden, Lawhon, Sutton.

HEARINGS: 

VACATIONS:

2.         Vacation 737                                                                         505 W C Street, LLC
(505 West Commercial)

Mr. MacPherson said a small portion of the existing building at this location extends into the right-of-way of Lyon Avenue.  No agency has any objection to the vacation of this small portion of right-of-way and the proposed vacation meets the approval criteria.  Staff recommends approval.

John Hosfield, 330 Spice Road, said he is a member of the LLC that purchased the building about 1.5 years ago.  During the course of obtaining a Conditional Use Permit it was found that about 6-7 inches of the building was built on the right-of-way.  They are asking that be relinquished so they can proceed with the completion of the building. 

No one spoke in opposition.  The public hearing was closed.

McClelland made the motion to approve Vacation 737.  Edwards seconded the motion. Motion carried as follows: AYES: Wheeler, Hedrick, Shermer, Coltrin, McClelland, Edwards; NAYS: None; ABSTAIN: None; ABSENT: Alden, Lawhon, Sutton.

3.         Vacation 738                                                              Evangel Temple
(2000 block East Meadow)

See previous request to table.

            ZONING TEXT AMENDMENT:

            4.         Solid Waste Transfer Station                                                 City of Springfield
(City Wide)

Howard Wright, Special Counsel, said approximately one year ago he was employed by the Solid Waste division of Public Works to negotiate an agreement with the two companies that operate transfer stations in the city.  The objective was to obtain a put or pay agreement where the two companies would contribute 175 tons per day beginning July 1, 2010.  The overall objective was to get 600 tons per day.  This agreement was approved by Council about two months ago and referred it to Commission because part of the agreement calls for a use permit to be required for a new transfer station and any new station would have to be consistent with the Solid Waste Management Plan.  That plan states if a new company wanted to open they would meet the same terms and conditions as the agreement with the two existing companies and share in the delivery of that solid waste.  The Solid Waste division is an Enterprise Fund and primarily supported by tipping fees at the landfill.  The revenues support the Integrated Solid Waste Management System (ISWMS) such as leaf composting, recycling, hazardous waste disposal and drop off sites.  Staff is confident the 600 tons per day would be received and there are provisions within the contract ensuring that amount.  This amendment is for a use permit, provided that a determination is made that the new site would be consistent with the ISWMS.

Mr. McClelland said it states the two companies that are currently licensed would be grandfathered.  He asked if these two companies are not currently in compliance with the ISWMS.  Mr. Wright said they are.  That is just a term staff is using because they are not being required to obtain a use permit and they do not create any problems in the area they are currently located in.  Mr. McClelland said the way he reads the amendment, if a new company were to locate within the city they could locate in any heavy manufacturing district as long as they complied with the bullet points lined out in the staff report.  Mr. Wright said Exhibit 1 states they have to obtain a use permit and there are a large number of conditions in the Zoning Ordinance that factor the impact on surrounding properties.   They can locate in an M-2 with a use permit. 

Mr. Wheeler asked if there is a HM area with nearby R-SF or schools could Commission consider that and in cases deny a use permit.  Mr. Wright said when he looked at the Zoning Ordinance he was satisfied there was a lot of discretion in granting the use permit. 

Mr. Wheeler asked for a clarification on the process when the use permit is applied for.   Mr. Neal said it would come before Commission and Council for approval.  Mr. Wright said they did not want to make it so no one else could have a transfer station.  He said it is unlikely because you would be coming into a new market and would need to have a landfill but if someone does want to compete there would be a level playing field. 

No one spoke in opposition.  The public hearing was closed.

Hedrick made the motion to recommend approval of Zoning Text Amendment – Solid Waste Transfer Station to City Council.  Edwards seconded the motion.  Motion carried as follows: AYES: Wheeler, Hedrick, Shermer, Coltrin, McClelland, Edwards; NAYS: None; ABSTAIN: None; ABSENT: Alden, Lawhon, Sutton.

            5.         Urban Gardens                                                                        City of Springfield
(City Wide)

Daniel Neal, Senior Planner, said this request involves the appropriateness of amending the Zoning Ordinance to allow urban gardens within the city limits.  The definition of urban gardens is the principal or accessory use where an individual or group of individuals grow and harvest food crops and/or nonfood ornamental crops such as flowers for personal use, group use, consumption, donation or to be sold for profit.  Gardens may be divided into separate plots for cultivation by one or more individuals or may be farmed collectively by members of the group and may include common areas maintained and used by group members.  He said this is not an effort to restrict or regulate personal gardens in the residential backyards but to determine if the proposed garden is a commercial business operation.  It is also to determine if they are located within a residential district at what level or scale would it negatively impact the neighborhood.  The approval of urban gardens within residential districts could allow for reduction of vacant and blighted lots while turning them into productive greenspace, increasing density and possibly providing a positive resource for inner city apartment and condominium dwellers.  On the negative side, at some scales an operation of this nature could cause traffic and parking concerns, public health and stormwater issues.  Our discussion tonight is to hear testimony to help determine if such a use is appropriate and if so, at what scale does it infringe upon the rights of a neighborhood and become a nuisance.  Staff has invited neighborhood organizations, published an ad in The Daily Events, posted on the City website and notified the Green Building Coalition of tonight’s meeting.  Staff is not asking a decision be made tonight but based on testimony from this meeting staff will come back to Commission with a recommendation for consideration at a future date. 

Mr. Coltrin said Mr. Neal stated this is not intended to regulate backyard gardens or personal gardens.  Is there something in the amendment that states they will be left alone and not bothered in any way?  Mr. Neal said there is not an exemption.  Mr. Coltrin asked if anything Commission does regarding neighborhood gardens could then, at some point, be taken to rule the backyard gardens.  He also asked if there would be a distinction made at some time.  Mr. Neal said staff is proposing a specific distinction between commercial sales on site.  Mr. Coltrin said he noticed it stated “raised for and donated to” and in his garden he can raise for and donate to anyone he wants to.  He asked if he would then be regulated under this proposal.  Mr. Neal said it would be a listed, permitted use in all districts.  The only distinction is the commercial sales on site. 

Mr. McClelland said the staff report addresses individuals and personal uses so if this amendment is not meant to address personal gardens it should say so.  He said Section 1-1331 states 20 acres of land and asked if that exempts backyard, personal gardens.  Mr. Neal said as it is written right now there is no exemption for gardens within Section 1-1331.  Mr. McClelland said there should be.

Mr. Wheeler said they are looking at use permits when on-site sales occur.  He asked what the fee is for obtaining use permits.  Mr. Neal said it would be around $1,200 and that includes the cost of neighborhood notification and advertising.  That does not include a representative or the cost of having a surveyor doing a site plan.

Mr. Wheeler advised this is a time for public input and Commission will not be making a decision tonight.  He said he feels a lot of people who will be speaking will be addressing the cost of the use permit and he feels that cost really needs to be brought down.  He said you can obtain a garage sale permit at no cost over the telephone.  He encourages everyone to look at methods to reduce the costs and asked if the notification requirement is important. 

Mr. Edwards said he has researched at how these gardens are set up in other communities.  He believes there are many different ways to set up the options such as the Park Board or schools donating land to the public.  He asked if there may be a way to set these up and not take it personally upon themselves to use their yard.  He said that may mitigate some of the costs.  Mr. Neal said there are many ways this can be done and the entities that participate.

Melissa Millsap, 831 West State, gave a PowerPoint presentation highlighting different types of urban garden and examples of those gardens in other communities.  She said there are many benefits with the urban gardens movement such as positive environmental impact, educational opportunities and building of communities.  Ms. Millsap said she also has received over 650 signatures on her petition in nine days.

Mr. Edwards asked how she envisioned her garden developing.  Ms. Millsap said she is interested in a larger farm type garden in her neighborhood.  She would like to turn her acre into a full garden with hoop houses to allow her to grow produce year round.  Ideally she would sell to local groceries and restaurants as well as support farmers markets.  She would also like to have a produce stand on site to serve as an outreach to the neighborhood.  She said the area is lower income and many travel by foot so she would be able to provide more nutritious food while educating them. 

Ms. Hedrick asked if she would be willing to pay the $1,200 fee to allow the city to monitor how she runs her garden.  Ms. Millsap said she can think of a lot of things she could do with her farm instead of paying the fee but the money would come back to her so she would pay it if she had to.

Reggie Gulick, Nixa, said he has farmed and gardened in Missouri for over 40 years.  He said he is here representing the citizens of Missouri and one item that has not been addressed is Missouri law.  Mr. Gulick addressed the part of the statute that states that cities do not have to ability to tax or charge fees to a farmer or producer for the sale of produce raised and sold in a wagon, cart or vehicle.  He said the intent of that law is that Commission has no business telling producers of this state where they can sell their produce and to whom.  There will be no taxes levied and the State Attorney General will be happy to take this up.  He said if you want to sell $50 worth of tomatoes you should not have to pay the City of Springfield $1,200 for that privilege.  He said he will be looking closely at all regulations on the books today and any that are proposed to protect the people of Missouri. 

Mr. Edwards said he also was curious about the taxation issues and how that would be applied.  Ms. Yendes said the statute Mr. Gulick referred to is a tax on the sale.  This is a land use issue and an application fee for a service, not a tax.  That has been litigated heavily since Hancock because the language in the Hancock Amendment is license, fee or tax.  She feels confident a use permit fee can be charged but once they are up and running they will not collect sales tax, will not pay a gross receipts tax or pay a license fee. 

Galen Chadwick, 4139 South Delaware, said the Well Fed Neighbor Alliance promotes thousands of small greenhouses and hen coops throughout the city with the goal of providing an edible landscape.  He said approximately 2.2 million pounds of food are trucked into the city every day.  Onerous licensing will short circuit our readiness to grow our own food supply if we are suddenly faced with the necessity to do so.  Personal property rights and neighborhood quality issues are also integral to this consideration.  The people own the city lots and park lands and he believes a referendum is a way for the will of the people to be fully honored.  A coordinated and practical plan is needed to protect the citizens in the event of national calamity.  He believes their alliance should have been approached to consult on this project before it was made public.  Mr. Chadwick said between 3,500 and 8,000 gardens have been created within the Springfield area in the last 100 days.  He said the Alliance would like to provide Commission with their research and studies that have been developed. 

Mr. Wheeler thanked Mr. Chadwick for bringing up the concept of food in emergencies and believes that is a relevant point. 

Katrina Stevens, 1005 South Pickwick, said she is the organizer for an eight family community garden within the city limits.  They garden on 2/3 of an acre and it is their second year of farming.  Their garden is intended for consumption of members only but they have considered selling corn stalks and seeds to recoup some of their seed costs.  She is concerned that their garden could cost them $1,200 because they sell seeds or stalks trying to recoup their costs.  She believes the proposed amendment does not define a for-profit garden and feels they could be affected by it. 

Mr. Wheeler asked if children helped in the gardening process.  Ms. Stevens said in some families there are children.  Mr. Wheeler said one of the problems seen in children is unhealthy eating and he asked if these gardens can help with that issue.  Ms. Stevens said she is a Pediatric Nurse Practitioner and she feels locally grown, mostly organic produce is a benefit to the children.  She believes fresh fruits and vegetables, along with the gardening activities, are one of the best things we can do for our children. 

Bill Graham, 1246 East Catalpa, said his area has very large lots and he has a greenhouse.  Mr. Graham said he has been thinking about an urban garden for some property on South Holland but he believes $1,200 is an outrageous fee.  He is concerned about water availability, pesticides, rodents and noise/air pollution from farming equipment.  Mr. Graham said it is not a bad idea but there needs to be some restrictions on urban gardens but not on personal gardens.  He also is not in favor of a produce stand because he would not want a lot of traffic coming through the area.  He is in favor of guidelines and regulations for those gardens that go beyond a home use. 

Petra Butler, 427 South New, said she is on the board of the West Central Neighborhood Alliance.  She is in favor of the urban gardens but feels the fee is too high.  In her neighborhood they are trying to keep and utilize what little greenspace they have left.  She believes you could use the lots from the abandoned houses in her neighborhood for gardening and is in favor of the fresh vegetables for the children.  She believes West Meadows would be an ideal place for selling locally grown produce.  There are also grants available from the Department of Agriculture that could support the urban gardens and she believes that would be a way to assist the blighted areas of the city and create a family environment. 

Mr. Wheeler said he thinks tying this into the West Meadows area is a good idea.  There have been a lot of discussions about the $1,200 fee but that involves a lot of other costs.   He asked staff for further information regarding those costs.  Mr. MacPherson said the fees are set by the Finance Department each year based on the average amount of time staff spends on each type of case.  With a use permit, there is a significant amount of time expended by staff because of the potential for a negative impact on the neighborhood.  It also includes advertising fees and neighborhood notification costs. 

Maxie McCowan, 733 Mission, said he is not willing to spend $1,200 to have a raised bed garden with some of his neighbors. 

Mr. Coltrin asked if someone is already doing a neighborhood garden would they be grandfathered in.  Ms. Yendes said to be grandfathered you have to already be a legal use.  She said they probably are but she hesitates to give the blanket answer of yes.  She said the $1,200 fee is not to have a garden; it is the fee if you want to sell on site.  If you want to sell at a farmers market there would be no fee. 

Nancy Brown Dornan, 1360 East Meadowmere, said she supports the community gardens and urban farms.   Surveys show that one of the top hobbies in Springfield is gardening.  She feels community gardens and urban farms are two separate issues.  There are communities across the country that has had successful community gardens for many years.  Urban farms are a new concept and she feels it is timely, economically important and a way to involve the children.  She feels there should be guidelines and reasonable fees are appropriate. 

Curtis Millsap, 6593 North Emu Lane, said he has a 20 acre farm outside the city limits of Springfield where they grow on two acres.  He said he is a full time farmer and they use organic practices.  People expect to have produce available year-round and if they are going to compete as local food producers you need to have what people want.  He does that in three hoop houses that are mobile.  He would like to see hoop house structures allowed within this proposal without the need to obtain a building permit.  He said they grow lettuce, spinach, carrots, radishes, greens, cabbage and other items year-round using only solar heat.  Someone had mentioned pesticide use but the typical Green Lawn application uses more chemicals than those used on the foods grown in gardens. 

Mr. Coltrin asked if he collected rainwater to water with or does he pump water.  Mr. Millsap said they water about 70% with rainwater in their greenhouses.  They only catch about 1/3 of the water off of their greenhouses.  Mr. Coltrin said the $1,200 fee for the use permit is nothing compared to the regulations that have to be met with stormwater, curb cuts and driveways. 

Mr. Neal said hoop houses are considered an impervious surface according to stormwater regulations. 

Mr. Wheeler asked if there is a differentiation between a greenhouse and an accessory structure.  Ms. Yendes said BDS has been very strict on the percentages for accessory structures.  As this moves through the process there will need to be a determination because if someone applies for a use permit you need to ensure they would be able to do what it is they want to do.  Mr. Neal said there are no specifics yet set on what sizes of accessory structures would be allowed with an urban garden.   Mr. Wheeler said he can see where someone could put up a large greenhouse, not handle the water runoff properly and creating an issue. 

Kate Murr, 1903 East Edgewood, said 96% of Campbell School is on the free lunch schedule, which means that where they get their nutrition and provides a great way to introduce the nutrition of produce into this neighborhood.  She feels it is important to find a way to support Ms. Millsap’s vision for her neighborhood. 

Wendy Anderson, 637 South Fremont, said she is the Director of Campus Sustainability for Drury University.  They now have two community gardens on their campus this year with more than 30 faculty and staff involved.  She said we are dealing with two different issues.   The first issue involves allowing the applicant to have an urban farm in her neighborhood and the second involves possibly setting a precedent for urban farms across the community.  She said Ms. Millsap’s request would be beneficial to the community at large and she actually has some plans to deal with the stormwater issues by capturing the rainwater from her property as well as some surrounding properties.  She is asking for Commission to support Ms. Millsap’s request and to create parameters for urban gardens and farms to be permitted in the city.  She said stormwater, parking, pesticides and odor issues need to be addressed. 

With no further speakers, the public hearing was closed.

Mr. Coltrin said Missouri can feed itself and just chooses not to at this time.  It has been done in the past and we can do it again anytime we choose to.  He supports the group’s concept of growing produce inside the city limits for those uses and it is a good thing to educate both children and adults.  He said in the past Council has brought together committees that include people who know a lot about the topic and he believes that would be good in this instance.  They could then put together the allowable uses and restrictions to present to Commission and Council. 

Mr. Wheeler said anyone interested in being on the committee can contact city staff. 

Mr. McClelland said he believes the permit fee should not be any greater than what restaurants pay for an inspection and it should be renewable on a yearly basis.  He said he cannot support this proposal unless it states that private backyard gardens are excluded.  He understands those that want a community garden and he believes they should be regulated in some way.

Mr. Shermer said he believes urban agriculture is a good idea for all the reasons stated at tonight’s meeting and the food products could help people in need during this time of economic recession.  Staff has noted some problematic areas and he does not believe the neighbors of those who have an urban garden have been considered.  Traffic and social problems should be considered because of parking issues and blocked drives.  Neighbors could have to deal with those issues daily and there needs to be more thought.  He believes an unused commercial or industrial site, school and church properties would be a better location.  Proper ingress and egress exists at those sites and current parking may be adequate or the parking could be expanded.  He is in favor of urban gardens but only at those latter locations.

Mr. Edwards said he does agree that a committee should be formed and it could do some good because the issue is so complex.  It should be made easy on those that want community gardens while keeping a high standard for those that want to go with an urban farm.  He believes the fee may be high but that is part of what keeps the standard high with those who want to become involved with the urban farm.  He believes this should be done and it would be a positive influence in the community but they need to make sure it is done in the right way. 

Ms. Hedrick said staff recommended that they take public comment and provide input regarding the proposed text amendment.  She believes there have been some really good comments and now staff can come back with a final recommendation.  She believes we need to encourage those that want to make their land productive and there should be a differentiation in the text between personal gardens and those using 20 acres. 

Mr. Wheeler said he agrees with Mr. McClelland regarding the family gardens.  He believes the cost of the use permit is severe and may be the biggest of the negatives.  There could be a process developed other than a full blown case before Commission to simply get a permit to grow and sell the produce.  He does not feel this is a time to make a final recommendation to Council and he would like to see this case to be tabled to allow for further discussions or possibly a committee to be formed.  Mr. Wheeler asked if this would need to be tabled to a certain date or can it be tabled indefinitely.  Ms. Yendes said it can be tabled indefinitely. 

Mr. McClelland said there are a lot of acres at the Rutlege-Wilson Park that could be used for more than just growing corn.  Mr. Coltrin said they are growing crops for the livestock not just corn. 

Mr. Edwards said if you are specific in structuring your community garden there could be a way to share the burden of the fees to help mitigate the costs or they could be waived.  When you get into the urban farms he believes it would be hard to waive fees because it could cause problems with other groups of people, such as developers, who believe their fees are too high.

Shermer made the motion to table Text Amendment-Urban Gardens indefinitely.  Edwards seconded the motion.  Motion carried as follows: AYES: Wheeler, Hedrick, Shermer, Coltrin, McClelland, Edwards; NAYS: None; ABSTAIN: None; ABSENT: Alden, Lawhon, Sutton.
OTHER BUSINESS:         

6.         Sign Code Revision                                                                               City Staff
(City Wide)

See previous request to table.

ANY OTHER MATTERS UNDER COMMISSION JURISDICTION:

There being no further business, the meeting was adjourned at approximately 8:50 p.m.

 


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