Minutes for the Springfield Planning and Zoning Commission

Date: April 1, 2010
Time: 6:30 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; King Coltrin; Jay McClelland; Matthew Edwards; Gloria Roling; Phil Young; Thomas Baird, IV; Jim Hansen; Mike MacPherson, Principal Planner, Planning and Development; Nancy Yendes, Assistant City Attorney; Martin Gugel, Public Works; Aaron Kemper, Public Works. Absent: Shelby Lawhon.

APPROVAL OF MINUTES:          

The minutes for February 18, 2010, were approved contingent on the correction of an error that attributed a statement to the wrong commissioner. The minutes for March 4, 2010, were approved as submitted.

COMMUNICATIONS:

Mr. MacPherson said that agenda items #1 and #5 had been tabled at the request of the applicant, who was having problems with the location of utilities

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. Relinquish Easement 747                                   Assemblies of God Financial Servcies
    (1600 block W. Battlefield)

    The above item was tabled. See the COMMUNICATIONS section for details.

HEARINGS: 


ZONING:

2.    Z-08-2010                                        OGS Properties, Inc.
      (336 S. Barnes)

Mr. MacPherson said that the applicant is proposing to rezone 4.5 acres of land from an R-MD, Residential Medium Density, to an HM, Heavy Manufacturing, district. This would allow the subject site to be zoned consistently with the rest of property owned by the applicant and the request would also restrict the land uses to off-street commercial parking lots and structures. 

Mr. MacPherson said that inherent in the rezoning process would be the requirement that the applicant provide a 40-foot-wide bufferyard on the east end of the subject site; perimeter landscaping and front- and side-yard setbacks would also be required. He then read the following from the Findings section of the City’s staff report:

  1. HM, Heavy Manufacturing zoning district is consistent with the existing HM zoning to the north of the subject property.
  2. The conditional overlay district will restrict the uses to only off-street commercial parking lots and structures.
  3. Approval of this request is consistent with the recommendations of the Comprehensive Plan, which identifies the subject property as the General Industry, Transportation and Utilities land-use designation.

Mr. MacPherson said that a protest petition had been presented by a neighbor of the subject site and that the petition would be discussed when the case went to City Council.

Mr. Coltrin asked about the drainage-way in the area of the subject site. Mr. Kemper, from Public Works, said that the applicant would need to ensure that, after development, storm-water drainage would flow across the subject site and would access the existing drainage-way and eventually get to Jordan Creek.

Mr. Hansen asked about “the big sinkhole on the east of Patterson.” Mr. Kemper said the applicant would be responsible for getting runoff from just north of the subject site across the subject site. Mr. Kemper said that the drainage channel that serves the sinkhole mentioned by Mr. Hansen should be able to deal with a 100-year flow of water from the sinkhole. 

Mr. Wheeler said he was surprised that the subject site, being across the street from a school, was recommended for the Heavy Manufacturing land use by the Comprehensive Plan, and he asked if the Springfield school district had commented on this aspect of the case. Mr. MacPherson said staff had not received any comments from the school district. He also said that the mandatory ten-foot perimeter landscaping strip would ensure the presence of some landscaping features along the edge of any parking lots. He also mentioned that a new sidewalk would be required along Barnes Avenue.

Mr. Hansen asked if there would be any driveway restrictions along Cherry or Barnes. Mr. MacPherson said that he hadn’t “seen any proposal for that.” 

Mr. Wheeler opened the public hearing.

Paul Engel, 2045 W. Woodland, said he represented the applicant. He said most of the people who had attended the neighborhood meeting said they had no problem with the proposal.

Mr. Hansen asked if this case was related to a lot to the east of the subject site’s being up for sale. Mr. Engel said that O’Reilly Automotive would eventually own the subject site and that this rezoning case meant that O’Reilly was “thinking in the future, ‘We hope we can grow this company enough that ... we might need a little extra parking.’”

Mr. Wheeler asked about the possibility that a multi-story parking structure could be built on the site. Mr. Engel said it was not “the O’Reilly’s intent” to construct one. He said he “thought” that “a bulk-plane limitation would not be objectionable” to them. Mr. MacPherson said that “in the existing code there would be a bulk-plane requirement.” 

There being no other speakers, Mr. Wheeler closed the public hearing.

Hansen made a motion to approve zoning case Z-08-2010/COD 34. Baird seconded the motion. Motion carried as follows: AYES: Wheeler, Coltrin, Young, Roling, Baird, Hansen, McClelland, Edwards; NAYS: None; ABSTAIN: None; ABSENT: Lawhon.


3.     Z-09-2010                                         Westport Management, LLC
          (3410 S. Campbell)

Mr. MacPherson said that the request is to rezone the subject site from PD 216, 1st Amendment to an HC, Highway Commercial, district, to allow for land uses that are allowed in the HC zoning district.

Mr. MacPherson read the following Staff Comments from the staff report:

1. The current PD allows for all General Retail District uses plus New and Used Car Sales, service and repair. However, the PD restricts the use of the site for other uses in the future that are compatible with uses in the adjacent and neighboring properties. Some of the neighboring properties are already zoned Highway Commercial District.

2. Access on Campbell Avenue will become median-controlled as part of the 6-lane widening project which will restrict the properties access to Campbell to a right-in/right-out.

3. The requested change in zoning would not cause a significant increase in number of trips generated by these properties. No traffic study will be required.

Mr. MacPherson then read the following conditions that would be required if the application is approved:

If approved, the new zoning is not effective until:

1. Additional right-of-way is required to be dedicated along Campbell Avenue, which requires 50 feet of right of way measured from centerline.

2. Additional right-of way is required to be dedicated along Walnut Long Street, which requires 30 feet of right of way measured from centerline.
 
3. Additional right of way is required at the intersection of Campbell Avenue and Walnut Lawn Street for intersection improvements.

If these conditions are not completed within ninety (90) days from the date the required amount of right of way to be dedicated is defined by Public Works, the approval is null and void and the zoning will remain Planned Development District 216, First Amendment.

Mr. MacPherson said that the land uses that would be allowed in an HC district would be “consistent with existing neighboring uses,” and that staff was recommending approval of the rezoning request.

Mr. Wheeler opened the public hearing.

Geoffrey Butler, no address given, said that the property owner would like to change the zoning so that the uses on his property could “match the neighborhood” and also to “simplify life” by doing away with a planned development. It would give the property owner “more flexibility in the future with the development of the property.”

There being no questions and no other speakers, Mr. Wheeler closed the public hearing.

Edwards made a motion to approve Zoning Case Z-09-2010. McClelland seconded the motion. Motion carried as follows: AYES: Wheeler, Coltrin, Young, Roling, Baird, Hansen, McClelland, Edwards; NAYS: None; ABSTAIN: None; ABSENT: Lawhon.

 

USE PERMIT:

4.     UP 387                                         Metropolis Holding Company, LLC
          (314 E. Olive)

Mr. MacPherson said that Conditional Use Permit Number 387 is a request to approve a use permit to allow residential uses on the first floor of a building in a CC, Center City, district, generally located at 314 East Olive Street. He described the conditional use process by reading the following part of the City’s staff report:

The conditional use permit procedure is designed to provide the Planning and Zoning Commission and the City Council with an opportunity for discretionary review of requests to establish or construct uses or structures which may be necessary or desirable in a zoning district, but which may also have the potential for a deleterious impact upon the health, safety and welfare of the public. In granting a conditional use, the Planning and Zoning Commission may recommend, and the City Council may impose such conditions, safeguards and restrictions upon the premises benefited by the conditional use as may be necessary to comply with the standards set out in the Zoning Ordinance to avoid, or minimize, or mitigate any potentially adverse or injurious effect of such conditional uses upon other property in the neighborhood. The general standards for conditional use permits are listed in Attachment 2 [of the staff report].
No conditional use permit shall be valid for a period longer than eighteen months from the date City Council grants the conditional use permit, unless within this eighteen months:

    1. A building permit is obtained and the erection or alteration of a structure is started; or
    2. An occupancy permit is obtained and the conditional use is begun.

    Mr. MacPherson also read the following part of the staff report:
  1. Staff has reviewed the applicant’s request for a Conditional Use Permit and has determined that it satisfies the standards for Conditional Use Permits, outlined in Section 3-3310 of the Zoning Ordinance. The applicant’s proposal involves placing a residential use in an existing retail/office space. There will be no change to the exterior of the building.
  2. The Use Permit conditions would dictate that the commercial storefront shall not be boarded or altered so that the residential use may be replaced by a commercial use in the future. The applicant has stated in their neighborhood meeting report that they have not been able to secure a tenant in the vacant office space for over a year.

Mr. Macpherson said that staff was recommending approval of the proposal because staff felt that the proposal met the approval standards for conditional use permits. He noted that the applicant had indicated he had been unable to rent the subject site to an office tenant for over a year and so staff was “trying to respond to the situation in the economy by protecting the frontage of the building but recommending allowance of the use during these hard economic times.”  

In response to a question from Mr. McClelland, Mr. MacPherson said that a tenant of the subject site would be able to modify the interior of the rented space but not the exterior.

Mr. Edwards asked for elaboration on staff’s statement that approving this case would not set a precedent for other cases. Mr. MacPherson said that he did not think the comment regarding precedents had come from staff but rather from a person urging disapproval of the case. He said that, given the current “economic situation,” staff believed approval “may be warranted.”

Mr. Young said he had a problem with using “the excuse of economic times to change a zoning thing.” He asked if other people had asked to be allowed to put in “some residential stuff on the first floor.” Mr. MacPherson said that, over time, there had been “two or three [instances] perhaps.” Mr. Young asked how those cases had been resolved. Ms Yendes said that the cases had happened “before the use permit” existed. She said that the use permit process affords some protection to surrounding properties. She said that, with regard to the current application, “it’s not like this is on The Square.” Mr. MacPherson said that the process was not arbitrary and that there were twenty-one criteria that had to be met in order for approval to occur.

Mr. Wheeler opened the public hearing.

Jason Murray, P.O. Box 2965, said that, because of the low-intensity nature of the surrounding land uses, there was not much pedestrian traffic in front of the subject site. He said he thought the issue of setting a precedent was not a major one, since the city council would be looking at each application for a use permit on a case-by-case basis. He said the previous owner of the subject building had been trying to lease the office space for over a year and that he (Jason Murray) had purchased the building “in December.” He said approval of his application would “help make that building produce the revenue it needs to.” He said the building has two second-story apartments and two first-floor commercial spaces, one being the subject site. The other space is occupied currently by a hair salon. He said he would be making sure that the subject site stayed “presentable” so as not to upset the hair salon tenants. He said the outside of the building would look “just like it does now except it will have blinds or some sort of partition on the inside.”

Ms. Roling asked what Mr. Murray thought of Dan Scott’s suggestion that the first-floor space be divided so that an office remained in the front of the space and a residential area  took up the back of the space. Mr. Murray said there would be a problem getting enough sunlight into the residential unit unless new windows were punched into the east wall that faces a narrow alleyway. He said the situation for the residential tenant “wouldn’t be very appealing.”

Mr. Hansen asked about the configuration of the proposed first-floor apartment. Mr. Murray said that because the building does not have a sprinkler system, “you have to have a window in every bedroom” and thus the plan was to have a bedroom for each of the existing windows. There was a discussion of whether the windows are on the east or the west side of the building. (They are on the east.) The apartment entrance would be the same as the current office entrance, at the front of the unit.

Mr. Wheeler said he takes the concept of precedence seriously. Mr. Murray said he did not want residential units located on the first floor all over downtown; but the subject site was different, since it was on a “side street,” and so it would not have much negative impact.

Daniel Scott, 400 E. Walnut, said he was against the use permit. He said he thought that putting a mirrored film on the storefront of the subject site would be an “alteration” of the storefront. (The applicant wrote, in Item 11 of the Attachment 2: Responses section of the staff report, that “no additions or alteration to the exterior of the existing building will be required.”) Mr. Scott said he thought mirrored windows had a deleterious effect on their viewers. He said he thought the proposal would violate criteria number 9 of the use permit standards, in that it would have an adverse effect on the character of the neighborhood. He did not like the fact that the subject site’s door could be propped open, allowing people to see inside the unit and view “dirty dishes, dirty laundry.” He said that mirrored finishes are only effective during daylight hours, and so “you will be able,” in the evening, “to see directly into these spaces.” He said he owned a vacant commercial space downtown and he did not think it would be appropriate for him to ask the Commission to be allowed to convert it to a residential use.

Mr. Coltrin asked Mr. Scott if he thought that his property at the corner of Walnut and Jefferson was “comparable” to the subject site. Mr. Scott said it was not; however, he felt that in the case of the subject site, staff’s main criteria was that “if a building’s been vacant for more than a year and you’re willing to put mirrored glass on it, then staff is willing to grant a conditional use permit.” Mr. Coltrin asked whether reflective film could be applied today to the subject site. Mr. Scott said he did not know. Mr. Coltrin said he “did not know of any regulation that would stop them from it.”

Mr. Baird said he thought there were several storefronts downtown that have “mirrored finishes.” He said he thought an office tenant might want to have the privacy afforded by such a finish, and he wondered whether it was currently legal to have such a finish on an office’s window. Mr. Scot said he was not qualified to answer a question regarding the legality of mirror finishes on windows.

Mr. McClelland said the owner had already said he would “police” the tidiness of the proposed apartment. Mr. Scott said he did not think that policing had always been adequate in the past and that he would let other speakers address that issue in more detail.

Jeff Schrag, 1326 S. Virginia, said he was opposed to first-floor apartments in the downtown area “regardless of whether it’s a busy street or not a busy street.” However, he said he would not be opposed if the apartment’s entrance did not open directly onto the street.

Mr. Coltrin asked about the possibility of having, at the storefront window, “a facade of an office” with a desk and chair and a “turn” so that passers-by on the street would not see into a residence but rather into “an alcove walk-in.” Mr. Scrag said that such an arrangement might “meet a lot of my objections.” Mr. Hansen said he thought that the subject site was “a real hard-luck block.” He said he thought that a storefront with a mirror finish would not “look all that much worse than what’s there now.” He said he thought the proposal might be acceptable “if the entrance were made so you couldn’t see into it.” Mr. Scrag said he would rather have the front of the site look as if it were designed as a residence, for instance a brownstone, rather than have it look like “you’re trying to put a residence where a residence does not belong.” Mr. Hansen said he thought the proposal could be “an improvement to the neighborhood” but also saw how it could be a “detraction from the neighborhood.”

Craig Wagoner, 509 W. Olive, said he was against the rezoning. He said that “last night there were people out charcoaling.” He said “that’s the kind of use you get when you have people living on the first floor.” He said he did not think it would be possible for a developer to police his tenants all the time. He said the Landmark Building and the Woodruff Building were near the subject site. He said their owners might argue, if the current case were approved, that they too should feature first-floor spaces for residential use. He said the subject building is “a commercial building” and the City “wants commercial-retail space, sales tax, mixed-use buildings—that’s what they’re promoting.” He said that the bad economy impacts the whole city, and so by that logic you should also allow residential space on Glenstone Avenue.

Rusty Worley, 807 W. Walnut, said he thought that “the best practice for urban development is to have commercial and office use on first floor uses.” He said he knew of only two situations downtown that were comparable to the proposed situation. One was on Campbell between “Kai” and “Ampersand.” The other was west of “the movie theater” on College; the latter being the “Palace Hotel.” He said, “If you look at how those [sites] are maintained, they do have an impact on the surrounding properties, and they aren’t always a positive reflection on the surrounding properties.” He said the beauty parlor next to the subject site and the Gillioz Theater generate some pedestrian traffic. Mr. Coltrin asked Mr. Worley where the loft dwellers downtown “recreate,” and if there were anything to prevent second-floor dwellers from playing football in the street. Mr. Worley said he suspected that one or two of the people he had seen in the street the previous night lived on the first floor of the Palace Hotel.

Ms. Roling expressed her gratitude to Mr. Worley for trying to create a “win-win situation” and trying to help Mr. Murray with “his leasing issues.”

Mr. Baird asked why it was acceptable to have first-floor apartments at the Palace Hotel and the Founders’ Park apartments but not at the subject site. Mr. Worley said that the difference is “how they address the street.” He said that at the Founders’ Park site the first floor is occupied by a “live-work space ... that has more of a commercial look and feel and it’s not directly a residence there. When you look at College or the storefront on Campbell, it’s obvious that both of those have residences right up to the storefront window." Mr. Baird asked the same question of staff. Mr. MacPherson said that “staff’s not making that argument.” He said staff based its recommendation on the criteria for a conditional use permit. He said that staff thought the street where the subject site’s is located is different in character from the streets “where the critical mass of business is downtown.”

Mr. Wheeler asked Mr. MacPherson if it would be possible for a conditional use permit to allow the land uses on a first floor “to be split.” Mr. MacPherson said that, yes, that was a possibility.

Mr. Murray returned to the podium. Mr. Wheeler asked about the size of the subject building. Mr. Murray said there were "about 5,000 feet on the first level.” Mr. Wheeler asked if Mr. Murray wanted to add any comments about the mirror finish or the sidewalk interaction. Mr. Murray said the mirror finish was “just one idea that was brought up.” He said it might be possible to “cut a door way into the space on the east side, so the apartment tenant could “come in off of the alley.” He said he thought that second-floor tenants were just as likely as first-floor tenants to “go outside.”

Mr. Coltrin asked if it would be possible to make the front of the space look like an office. Mr. Murray said it would be “hard to enforce that the current resident maintain the office look in the front.” And, he said, there would still be the problem of not many windows and those windows being “in the shadow of the back of the Gillioz Theater.”

Mr. Wheeler closed the public hearing.

Mr. Wheeler said he did not think the current state of the economy should have a bearing on a zoning issue. He said “these properties can be sold,” and so in the future an owner’s level of commitment to police the behavior of tenants could change. He said he saw the possibility of “sidewalk interaction” between residential tenants and the street as being “a pretty negative point.” He said he was inclined to oppose the proposed zoning change.

Mr. Coltrin said he thought that “every decision we make, in some way or another, is based on economic times.” He said that “if you’re afraid of precedents, we should never have a conditional use.” He said the subject site was “a tough property.”

Mr. Hansen said he felt that if the subject site were converted to a residential use, “this block is never going to get better and it may get worse.”

Mr. Edwards said he would not recommend that this case set a precedent for how the Commission should rule on similar cases in the future. He said it was possible that a residential use could eventually be converted back to a commercial use at the subject site. He said he thought that allowing “somebody to make use of property that they can’t do anything with at this moment” would be a good thing. He said he was prepared to support the proposal.

Mr. McClelland said he once worked at a downtown establishment whose owner lived downtown, and the owner’s entrance to her property “was a garage door.” He had thought at the time that that was a good arrangement, and the present case had not changed his mind, so he was in favor of the proposal.

Mr. Young said he thought approving the case would set a bad precedent. He said he might be in favor of having a split use on the first floor. He said that using the economic times as a reason to approve the case was not something he was in favor of.

Mr. Wheeler told Mr. Murray that, if he wanted to change the proposal, he could ask a Commission member to move that the case be tabled. Mr. Murray returned to the podium. He and Mr. Wheeler discussed the tabling process. Then Mr. Murray said he did not want to request tabling of the case.

Edwards made a motion to approve Conditional Use Permit 387. Coltrin seconded the motion. The vote resulted in a 4-4 tie, as follows: AYES: Coltrin, Baird, McClelland, Edwards; NAYS: Wheeler, Hansen, Roling, Young; ABSTAIN: None; ABSENT: Lawhon.
 
Because of the tie vote, the case was tabled till the next Commission meeting, April 15, 2010.

OTHER BUSINESS:

Mr. Wheeler said there seemed to him to be a “proliferation of nonconforming signs” in the city. He said it would be good if staff could address this issue at some point, preferably in a way that would not cost the city a lot of time or money.

ANY OTHER MATTERS UNDER COMMISSION JURISDICTION:

There being no other business before the Commission, Mr. Wheeler adjourned the meeting at approximately 8:09 p.m.

 

 

 

 

 


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