The Blue Springs City Council on a 4-3 vote Monday approved a much-debated residential development on the city’s south side.
The proposed Cambridge Park neighborhood is for single-family homes next to the Colonial Highlands neighborhood, just west of Adams Dairy Parkway Parkway and north of Southeast Major Road. Rausch-Coleman of Arkansas has said it plans to market the homes as starter houses for many people, priced at about $220,000 and higher.
The city had received some petitions about the planned 180-home development over 60 acres, as several neighbors have voiced concerns about potential rental houses and negative effects on their own property values. But not enough valid petitions came in to require a two-thirds council majority for rezoning – at least five of the seven on the council – and the council voted 4-3 for both rezoning and the concept plan.
Council Member Ron Fowler said the planned residential overlay district, left over from previous city development standards and which had some higher requirements for the planned neighborhood, could still have been left in place.
“They’ve been saying they’re going to meet the standards of the PRO,” Fowler said of Rausch-Coleman before the vote. “The easiest way for that is to leave the zoning.”
“I’m trying to uphold that, and I think that’s what the residents want.”
Fowler and Council Member Susan Culpepper, who represent the city’s southern third, and Galen Ericson voted against rezoning and the concept plan. Council members Jerry Kaylor, Chris Lievsay and Kent Edmondson and Mayor Carson Ross voted yes.
The council had delayed its scheduled vote from two weeks ago, as neighbors also claimed not all who own property within 185 feet of the development had been notified about the potential rezoning. City staff said they had sent notices based on Jackson County property records, which turned out to be not up to date because the Colonial Highlands development has also been recent.
Fowler said after the meeting a good portion of surrounding property remains owned by Sallee Homes, and a business usually doesn’t take a side on such issues. It’s a glitch in the system, he said, that businesses aren’t considered exempt in such requirements.
“A technicality,” neighboring resident Chris Hicks murmured about that matter after the meeting. What bothered him, Hicks added was that several council members saw the residents, knew they opposed the rezoning and still voted for it.
Ross said because the rezoning was from one single-family designation to another and checked the necessary boxes, he felt compelled to vote yes to avoid possible legal action.
“You’re going from single-family to single-family, and had we rejected it, the city would’ve had a lawsuit,” Ross said, “and I don’t want that on the taxpayers, bottom line.”
“I understand people are upset, but you can’t control other people’s property,” he said. “You can’t govern based on feelings.”
Regarding concerns the homes would be rentals, “It’s yet to be proven,” he said.
Ross said during last month’s public hearing on the matter that council members are not allowed to vote on rezoning based on whether homes might be rentals or owner-occupied.
Jesse Fulcher, director of land planning for Rausch-Coleman, told the Planning Commission on Feb. 10 the company can rent homes, as it has been doing in some other developments elsewhere, but would try to sell if the company believed they could.
Later, in an email to Culpepper, Fulcher said, “As the Cambridge Park development begins, we have every intention of selling the homes, as the marketplace supports those transactions.”
During the public hearing, Fulcher explained to the council that a lower-priced starter house near a $350,000 home shouldn't negatively affect the latter, as home values are based on per square foot and also include the interior.
In December, the Planning Commission approved Raush-Coleman's original rezoning application and preliminary plat, but citizen appeals then would have forced the council to vote on the preliminary plat in addition to rezoning.
Rausch-Coleman decided to take an extra month and go back to the Planning Commission with a slightly different plan – a handful fewer homes, larger minimum square footage at 1,400 and more green space.