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City OKs plan for former school site

Springfield neighborhood would be hurt from retail, office space, residents say.Dollar General wants to open new store on former Simon Kenton site.

A divided city commission approved rezoning the former Simon Kenton school site on East Home Road despite residents who said the development would hurt the neighborhood.

Commissioners voted 3-2 Tuesday night in favor of the Village Greene planned development, a 12.6-acre area at 1221 E. Home Road.

Commissioners Kevin O’Neill, Karen Duncan and Warren Copeland voted in favor, while commissioners Dan Martin and Joyce Chilton voted against the retail and office development, which could include a Dollar General store.

Construction is expected to begin later this year. Building plans will be reviewed in the next few weeks, according to planning and zoning administrator Bryan Heck.

Copeland voted for the issue because he said zoning is about the type of activity designated for a certain location, not the company that locates in the development. The plan is slightly different from the previous plan approved in 2008.

“I agree completely that whenever we deal with zoning, we need to take into account the effect on the neighborhood,” Copeland said. “I think our staff is trying very hard through the buffer requirements to take seriously the concerns of the neighborhood. I know some of you in the neighborhood don’t agree, but I just think we have tried to make this something that can happen without serious damage to the neighborhood.”

Duncan said the buffer zones and the building exterior requirements will make the development “look attractive” from the street. She understood the neighbors complaints and said staff has done everything to address those concerns.

“I think this has a good shot at being a successful endeavor,” Duncan said, “And I think we need to give it a chance.”

Anne Deam, who lives on nearby Olympic Street, told city commissioners that residents expect a certain amount of protection from elected officials about land use.

“It has to be more than jobs and profit,” Deam said. “Once the integrity of the neighborhood has been destroyed, it’s impossible to restore it.”

The planned development will include retail space, office buildings and a residential area. One potential tenant, Dollar General, wants to begin construction later this year and open before the Christmas holiday.

At the July 23 meeting, Jim Peifer, the attorney for developer Mike Hufford of Keith Lynn Associates, asked the commissioners to vote on the rezoning as an emergency ordinance to allow for construction to be completed before the holiday shopping season. However, after a 30-minute public hearing in which several neighbors voiced their complaints about the development, commissioners waited two weeks to decide the issue.

In June, the city planning board recommended approval of the rezoning of the development. It had been rezoned in 2008 but stalled due to the economic recession.

O’Neill said the previous decision in 2008 has cleared the path for other successful planned developments in the city, including the Limestone Center development at the former Roosevelt Middle School site on North Limestone Street.

“We’ve gone the extra mile through our staff to try to deal with some of the concerns that the neighbors have,” O’Neill said.

Martin felt the commercial property discussed at the Village Greene is different than those currently in business at the Roosevelt site. He also felt the addition of approximately 5,000-square-feet in retail space to the project is a “significant change.”

He said this is a situation where the project should conform to the zoning, rather than the other way around.

“The new revised plan seems to have opened up the same concerns for residents,” Martin said. “I’m not prepared to support this tonight.”

The site will have two lots for standalone businesses nearest Home Road, while a shopping center or office building will be located behind those buildings. The four buildings would create more than 59,000 square feet of commercial/office space.

A retail anchor will likely fill the spot at the corner of Derr and Home roads. The plans call for a residential development behind the shopping center. The previous plan called for condominiums.

Another nearby resident, William Brown, said cited the availability of several other similar stores to Dollar General in the area, specifically those on Home Road.

“We really don’t need this,” Brown said.

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