After not getting their desired result from the Springfield City Council, the nonprofit organization that operates Eden Village has filed a federal lawsuit alleging discrimination.
A release from Eden Village is claiming that the city and Mayor Ken McClure violated federal statutes and unfairly discriminated against them when they didn’t get the change to zoning they wanted for their Eden Village II project.
Gathering Tree, the organization behind Eden Village, wanted the city to rezone five acres of industrial zoned land to a commercial service district which would have allowed an RV park on the land. OI examined the site and complaints from surrounding neighbors earlier this year, finding no support for most neighbor complaints.
When the vote was taken on the rezoning issue, several council members made statements that their issue was not with the actual Eden Village project, but issues with spot zoning and concerns regarding removal of more industrial zoned land within the city. Council members noted they were in favor of what was being done in the Eden Village concept, but that this particular piece of land was not the place for a new location. Councilwoman Ferguson noted there was residential zoning all over the city that could be used for what Gathering Tree wanted to do and that the city’s comprehensive plan that Council follows stated industrial areas were not for residential use.
A protest petition was filed with the city on the rezoning issue, with over 70 percent of property owners signing the petition, meaning six council members had to vote yes for the measure to pass. Only 5 yes votes were given to the measure with Ferguson, McGull, and McClure voting no. (Councilwoman Fisk was not in attendance at the meeting.)
The city released a statement Friday night about the action taken by Gathering Tree, noting they had been trying to work with the organization to find solutions, but the nonprofit group decided to file a lawsuit instead of cooperating with the city:
The City of Springfield has considered The Gathering Tree, LLC a community partner and our staff has worked with them extensively to develop Eden Village. At the direction of Mayor Ken McClure and City Council, the City also allocated approximately $300,000 to assist them with infrastructure improvements that made the development possible.
A second proposed Eden Village development at 3303 W. Division required a zoning change that failed to pass City Council. Six votes were required for approval and the measure received five affirmative votes.
In this case, there was a protest petition that required a higher threshold of affirmative votes. If owners of 30 percent of the property within 185 feet of the property proposed to be changed, sign a petition, a 2/3-majority vote is required. This protest petition constituted 72.8 percent.
City officials met with Eden Village partners recently to discuss other paths forward. Alternate approaches offered to them included applying for a planned development or waiting until the City had time to review and possibly update our zoning regulations.
We were disappointed to learn through media reports that they have instead decided to file a lawsuit.
The City of Springfield has not been served with a lawsuit and therefore, officials have not had a chance to review.
Gathering Tree officials are scheduled to provide more information to the media Monday at a press conference regarding their actions.