Having served as Springfield City Attorney for almost 34 years, I have seen many bitter neighborhood battles over zoning, although the intensity of the battle over the zoning of the Galloway Village development, across from Sequiota Park on South Lone Pine, has a special passion of its own. The Galloway Village Neighborhood Association (Neighborhood Association), representing residents in the Galloway area, has opposed the Galloway Village Creek development for over four years, spent over $50,000, and it is not over yet.
Recently, the Galloway Neighborhood Association obtained a ruling from the Missouri Court of Appeals, declaring that the Association was entitled to a referendum on the ordinance adopted by the City Council of Springfield, approving the Galloway Village development. This means that the voters will get to decide if the rezoning will be approved or rejected at an election on November 9, 2022. A referendum is the ultimate forum of participatory democracy, since the voters get to decide if the Galloway Village zoning is approved. The outcome of the vote could be decisive. If the ordinance is approved by a majority of the voters, the property would be rezoned and that would end the battle. If the voters reject the zoning, the ball would be in the developer’s court to determine if he would pursue a less intense use of the property that might be more satisfactory to the Neighborhood Association. The recent adoption of new guidelines for development in Galloway area by the city might offer a compromise.
Since I retired in 2005 as City Attorney, I have not expressed my views on city matters, believing that it was time for others. In this rare case, I have put aside my reservations to speak on this important matter. I hope to bring a different perspective to this issue based on my experience as City Attorney for almost 34 years and familiarity with this area for over 50 years. I know this area like the back of my hand, having belonged to the Southern Hills swimming pool on Southern Hills Boulevard for about 15 years, which is immediately North of the Galloway Greenway trail. I have walked and biked the Galloway Creek Greenway and visited Sequiota Park hundreds of times.
I will be blunt by making my intentions clear at the outset. The rezoning of Galloway Village property is about protecting the unparalleled beauty and natural resources of Sequiota Park, the Galloway Creek Greenway, and pristine water resources that are unique. To put this in perspective, the Galloway Creek Greenway was the first trail in Missouri to be honored as a National Recreation Trail by the National Park Service and American Trails in 2003. No small honor. Sequiota Park is unique with free-flowing springs of pristine waters that come out of the side of the side of the outcrop of the rocks, providing a constant flow to the creek south of Sequiota Park of the highest water quality. Sequiota Park is well named, meaning in Indian “many springs.” In addition, there is a big cave opening that houses thousands of endangered grey bats that is exceptional. You can experience the thrill of boating deep into the cave with bats hanging from its roof.
Part of the confusion over the issue of whether or not to rezone Galloway Village is driven by the idea that economic development is always a net gain, which is not true, particularly in this case. These bogus claims are furthered by statements to the News-Leader by the Missouri State Representative for the Galloway area, Craig Fishel, who strongly believes that the development of the Galloway area was spurred on by the city when it blighted the Galloway area, allowing the use of tax incentives for redevelopment in 2014.
In an interview with the News-Leader, Representative Fishel lauded City Council’s, 2014 decision to blight the Galloway area along Lone Pine.
“This is a perfect example of when it should be used,” he said. “I’ve lived in that southeast corner of Springfield my whole life. There was nothing happening in Galloway before we blighted it.”
“It’s a shining star in the city of Springfield for what blighting can do,”
While Representative Fishel, may be a life long resident of the area, his analysis is way off because he fails to recognize that the development in the Galloway area is based on the strength of the surrounding neighborhoods as a great place to live. This area was well established before 2014, before the city blighted properties on South Lone Pine. Sequiota Park and the Galloway Creek Greenway shaped the revitalization of this area because people want to live in an area where there are amenities like parks and trails. You can see this impact all over town along the trail-way system, although it is most visible and prominent in the Galloway area.
When I arrived in Springfield in 1972, the Galloway area was run down, with old industrial businesses spotted along the east side of Lone Pine. I know, I was involved in trying to deal with these issues. Dust from the quarry was everywhere discouraging development. Sequiota Park was badly in need of an update.
So, what happened? The city with the help of residents in the area took steps in 2003 to buy land from John Q. Hammons, at a considerable cost to the neighbors, along the east side of Southern Hills Boulevard and Lone Pine, in order to provide for open space and for a connector to the Galloway Creek Greenway Trail and Sequiota Park. The city improved Sequiota Park by updating its infrastructure, making it a destination for families and individuals who wanted to enjoy the park and those who wanted to use it to picnic, walk, run, and bike. On top of that, the old industrial outdated businesses disappeared due to higher environmental requirements and the quarry stopped producing prodigious amounts of dust. No doubt, much of this was due to higher environmental standards particularly for air quality by the state, federal and city governments. People wanted to live near Sequiota Park and the Galloway Creek Greenway where you could picnic, bike, walk or run. The Galloway area took off with high quality housing that was established well before 2014. The vitality of the neighborhoods is what makes the Galloway area so strong and vibrant.
Neighborhood opposition is not a NIMBY reaction. According to KY3, Wendy Huscher, a Galloway neighborhood representative, explained citizen opposition: “It is based on the simple fact is we’re here to preserve this area for all of Springfield.” Ron Boles, another Galloway neighborhood representative said, according to KY3 that:
“This is not a bunch of neighbors who don’t want it in their backyard. We already have it in our backyard. But this is the wrong development in the wrong place. Sequiota is where people want to come to get away from the city and not be smack in the middle of it. To build something like that across the street will take away the beautiful ambiance of this area.”
The Galloway Neighborhood Association has expressed concerns about increased traffic, storm water pollution, and tree removal that would ruin the historic park’s charm and ecosystem, which is already suffering from algae build-up in its water features.
Worse yet the environment protecting the endangered grey bats could be tipped, destroying a precious and unique Springfield resource. I worry about the intensity of the development that has already occurred or will occur in this area, effecting Sequiota Park and the Greenway. Quarry Town already plans to add a 100 rental unit housing complex and 18 stilted townhouses plus 20,000 square feet of commercial south of Sequiota Park in the Galloway area. In addition, TLC properties has developed a 133,000 square unit property, south of Sequiota Park with 138 units south of Sequiota Park off of Lone Pine. There is already lots of development in the area and more is not needed when it impacts Sequiota Park and the Galloway Creek Greenway trail. Lone Pine, the primary road serving this area is a two lane inadequate road that meanders south to the park from battlefield Road.Attempts to improve the road seem pretty pathetic like the roundabout built to serve apartment south of the park.
It is not hard to imagine taking your family to Sequiota Park to see a flock of geese gliding into the pond in full V formation for a soft landing; you can look at a free flowing springs coming out of the face of the cliff; you can walk to the small dam where water flows over the crest of a dam into Galloway Creek, making what was an upstream dry creek, during the dry season, into a downstream free flowing stream all year long; you can visit the mouth of a large cave opening where Indians once camped; you can cook or bring your own food to eat as your family whiles away the day and your children play in the park; you can walk or bike on the trail by a free flowing stream of clear and pristine water; and to top everything off you and your family can be thrilled to watch thousands of endangered grey bats come out of the big cave opening in a constant stream at twilight. These are treasures to be protected. If this is not worth protecting, I do not know what is?
From the Springfield News-Leader https://www.news-leader.com/story/life/2014/09/10/twilight-flight/15410137/
November 8, 2022, is your opportunity as a citizen of Springfield to participate in one of the great exercises in participatory democracy. Please exercise your right to vote. When voting consider what is at stake. A few pictures from the Springfield Park Board Web site tell a story about this unique and incredible resource. See web site for more pictures of Sequiota Park.
Howard Wright@ 2022