Neighbors, developers at odds over rezoning of Old Sprigg

Wednesday, September 19, 2012
A car travels past land on Old Sprigg Street Tuesday, Sept. 18, 2012 that is part of a proposed zoning request that would allow an apartment complex development. Three owners of an approximately nine-acre tract want it rezoned while many residents in the nearby neighborhoods are opposed because they worry about an increase in traffic, crime and noise. (Laura Simon)

Owners of property along Old Sprigg Street Road and Bertling Street see an opportunity to help ease a housing squeeze at Southeast Missouri State University, and hope Cape Girardeau's city officials agree. Building an apartment complex on approximately nine acres of pasture and wooded area just to the north of campus makes sense to a pair of residential developers, and the city's planning and zoning commission, too. But it doesn't to the neighbors.

"We're very disappointed down here," said Frank Guinta, a resident of Mahy Drive, whose ranch-style home faces north toward a few others of similar size on the dead-end street.

He and his family planned to live in Cape Girardeau four or five years at the most when they first moved to town. But they liked it here, he said, and loved their neighborhood.

"My big deal about coming here was the peacefulness of this place. It's been a quiet 35, almost 36 years," he said Tuesday, standing on his front porch.

Now Guinta and many other residents in the area are worried that quiet and calm will soon go away.

"It's going to destroy all that," he said. "There are no two ways about it."

Edward Leoni, a retired faculty member of the university, owns five of the acres in question. He and two other owners have been working with a developer, Brandon O. Williams, on a potential sale of the property. The design of an apartment complex that could eventually be built there is tasteful, Leoni said, and the complex would additionally provide an answer for how to house a growing population of university students.

The city's planning and zoning commission unanimously approved a request to rezone the property, which consists of lots at 1733 and 1739 Old Sprigg Street Road and adjoining lots along Bertling Street and Mahy Drive, from R-1, which is single-family suburban residential, to R-4, which is medium-density family residential, at its Sept. 12 meeting.

Williams and a partner, Wayne Boehme, plan to buy the lots and invest around $14 million to build a multibuilding apartment complex with a clubhouse, pool and resident parking if the city council gives its final approval to the rezoning request. A current conceptual plan by the developers shows a total of 18 buildings that could go in the space, but Williams said that number is the maximum the zoning rules would allow and that more engineering that would follow council approval would determine the actual number of buildings that would be constructed. The apartment buildings would likely be a two-story craftsman-style featuring brick and hardboard siding, Williams said. A 20-foot-wide "green buffer zone" of trees and shrubs would likely surround the complex, and security would live on-site. Traffic access points for the complex would be on Bertling Street and Old Sprigg Street Road.

"It's a great project for the community," Williams said. "It's going to give the housing that SEMO needs right now, it's going to create a lot of local jobs for the area, and will provide a lot of tax revenue for the schools."

Residents say they understand the need for apartments in Cape Girardeau, but are concerned about an increase in traffic, crime and, most of all, a potential for their property values to decrease if the area is rezoned and the complex is built.

Guinta and his neighbors on Mahy Drive, including Diane Meyr and Lee Ann Mattingly, all own their homes and met with other neighbors Sunday night to discuss the possible effects to their properties and those of the residents on nearby roads such as Brucher and Price streets. A petition that opposes the rezoning is making its way through the neighborhoods.

Mattingly said she was told by a real estate agent this week that her home could appraise for $25,000 to $35,000 less because it is adjacent to property zoned as multifamily. She also worries the end of the dead-end street could be eventually turned into a through way to the complex, the idea for which overall she and other neighbors say sounds like a "nicer idea" now than what it could become years down the road.

"What if one day the college students don't rent there -- what if it becomes run down?" Meyr said. "All these things we have heard so far about all of it, the only things we've been told is what ‘probably' won't happen, and that doesn't work for me."

Williams said extending Mahy Drive into the complex is not in the proposal and that it would not ever be added because it does not make sense to do so.

Eight residents spoke against the zoning change at the commission's meeting citing concerns similar to those heard on Mahy Drive.

Dr. Wayne Bowen, vice chairman of the commission who acted as chairman during the meeting, said their decision was made not necessarily on the merits of the proposal for the apartment buildings, but for the appropriateness of the request, which goes along well with overall plans for residential development within the city.

"We were very mindful and sensitive of the surrounding property owners' concerns, but taking this into the general context of attempts within the city to encourage growth and to allow property owners to use the land that they own, it seemed to be a stronger case to allow the rezoning to go forward considering the overall serious shortage of high-quality, multifamily housing and the growth at the university," Bowen said.

City staff's recommendations to the commission were also positive, Bowen said.

A public hearing on the request will be held during the regular meeting of the city council at 7 p.m. Oct. 1.

eragan@semissourian.com

388-3627

Pertinent address:

1733 Old Sprigg Street Road, Cape Girardeau, MO

1739 Old Sprigg Street Road, Cape Girardeau, MO

Bertling Drive, Cape Girardeau, MO

Mahy Drive, Cape Girardeau, MO

401 Independence St., Cape Girardeau, MO

Map of pertinent addresses

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