Residents sign petition over Old Sprigg rezoning

Thursday, September 27, 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)

Opponents of urban deer hunting won't be the only Cape Girardeau residents using the power of a petition to make sure their interests are represented during an upcoming city council meeting.

Enough residents who live close to an area along Old Sprigg Street Road and Bertling Street proposed for a zoning change that would allow construction of a large apartment complex have signed a petition that makes approval by a two-thirds majority of council members necessary in order for the change to take effect.

Signatures on the petition were deemed official by the city's planning and zoning office this week. The city's planning and zoning commission unanimously approved recommending to the council that a nine-acre tract be rezoned from R-1, which is single-family suburban residential, to R-4, which is medium-density multifamily residential, at its Sept. 12 meeting, despite objections from residents who own adjacent properties. Three tracts that make up the nine acres are owned by separate parties interested in selling to a developer who may invest around $14 million into building a multiunit complex with a clubhouse, pool and resident parking.

Rick Renfrow of Cape Girardeau and several members of his family own the largest parcel of land that borders the properties in question. His 125-acre farm and woods span large sections on each side of Old Sprigg Street Road, providing the tranquil setting residents in adjoining neighborhoods are fighting to protect.

"This thing could basically ruin this area," Renfrow said.

He is among those who signed the petition, and said he hopes doing so will send a message to the council that a decision to rezone the area is not, in the eyes of residents, the best thing for the community.

Renfrow said he and others have no issue with the current owners of the properties building single-family homes, and opponents understand a communitywide concern that there is not enough rental housing for college students, but that there are other areas available where similar projects could be developed. Residents' concerns include the potential for their property values to decrease as a result of rezoning and a likelihood of more noise, traffic and crime in their neighborhoods that will come along with the up to 600 new residents that could rent apartments in the complex.

Edward Leoni, who owns the majority of the acreage planned for sale to a developer, said last week that there is no interest for him to build single-family homes on his property because he does not feel the local real estate market is strong enough that the homes would turn a profit.

City planning staff recommended the zoning change to the commission citing proximity of the site to the university, an apparent need for more off-campus student housing and the existence of several other multifamily developments in the city that are adjacent to single-family neighborhoods. Staff also believed should the area be rezoned and developed as apartments, the city's development codes, such as a requirement for a 20-foot wide buffer yard, would be enough to screen the complex from nearby single-family homes.

Lee Ann Mattingly, a resident of Mahy Drive with property adjacent to the site, has been helping circulate two petitions related to the rezoning, including the one accepted by the city that will prompt the two-thirds majority vote requirement, and another that is generally in opposition of the development.

"I've been out canvassing these neighborhoods," she said Wednesday. "I didn't run across one person who was in favor of this."

Mattingly said the issue is additionally one of spot zoning, which isn't ideal in most communities. All other property in the immediate area is zoned R-1 or R-2.

"We're not going to take it sitting down," she said. "We feel like this our investment, and these are our property values and we are going to do what we can to protect them."

City planner Ryan Shrimplin said the city is not blowing off the neighbors' argument about a potential effect on property values, but in order for the point to be considered, there needs to be some supporting documentation.

"The concern is a universal concern whenever zoning is brought up," Shrimplin said. "The fact is, if it does go through, everything is going to be new in that area and looking at it from appraiser's standpoint, it's really hard to buy into the argument that property values will suffer."

He also said that the city determined there does not appear to be any issues with the capacities of public works or city services should a development eventually locate in that area.

If the proposed change does receive the necessary five votes from the council, there is a 10-day window in which an aggrieved party could file an appeal to the decision in circuit court,

The first reading of the ordinance that would rezone the area will follow a public hearing at the city council meeting Monday. Oct. 15 would be the date of the final passage if the ordinance's first reading receives approval.


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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