It took a second go around, but the Richmond City Council cleared the way for Sonic to relocate to East Main Street and Spartan Drive.
The council unanimously voted in support of the rezoning of residential property to general business for Sonic.
The measure failed last month when the council couldn’t gather enough votes to pass the zoning change, falling one short. At the time the council only had seven members, with one seat left unfilled. The final vote was 4-2 with Councilman Scott Marshall abstaining from the vote for what he said were “business reasons.” Councilman Tom Williams and Dave Powell also voted no.
The request passed through a public hearing the night before with little discussion from the Planning Commission members. Commissioner Mike Harrison gave the only comment, referring to the city’s outdated comprehensive plan as a guide.
Some neighbors in opposition to the plan again voiced their opposition to the rezoning in the public hearing and again at last night’s city council meeting.
At the public hearing Tuesday night, attorney for Sonic Scott Hamilton said that Sonic had agreed to pay for new lighting at the intersection to help control the traffic flow with a sensor light instead of a timed light. Neighbor Rita May said changing the light wouldn’t fix an already existing problem with traffic.
“I don’t think it will help at all,” May said. “Especially with East Main being only two lanes.”
Richmond resident and lawyer Alan Lacy told council members that the neighbors’ complaints and concerns fell on deaf ears the night before and urged the council to not do the same.
“Would you vote for this to be right next to you?” Lacy asked. “I know the answers no. I’m absolutely sure that is absolute hypocrisy.
“Doing it to somebody else is not appropriate,” he added.
Lacy said the only person who has publicly supported the zoning change is the lawyer who is paid to be there. Community Development Director Lisa Hastings said that three neighbors indicated to her that they did not have an issue with Sonic’s move, however, none of those people have come forward publicly. One resident did voice somewhat of an opposition at the first public hearing that was held last month. That resident happened to live close to where the current Sonic location is.
Lacy offered to supply council members and commission members materials that he believes are important to the issue concerning case law that opposes what Lacy calls “spot zoning.” Beverly Gorham was the only member of the council or commission that showed any interest in the documents that Lacy wanted to provide. Lacy said that the Missouri Supreme Court has ruled against spot zoning if it has no public benefit or is benefiting a single entity. Gorham said before the first vote that experts at Missouri State University had advised her that spot zoning is “highly discouraged.” Gorham went on to say that she didn’t think Sonic should go there, but voted for it anyway.
Before the vote, little discussion was had, but Councilman Jason Berning did say that he felt this would help a city budget that needs help. Marshall said he voted this time for the measure because he no longer had a conflict of interest.
In other business:
Mayor Lance Green appointed former Daily News employee Tammy Folvarcik to replace former Councilman Ralph Bennett, who resigned last month. The appointment can also be viewed as a conflict of interest. Folvarcik’s husband is a part-time police officer for the city and she is a part-time communications officer for the police department.
Some residents also voiced their displeasure with what seems to be a city policy that some think keeps people from talking. At issue is the right to speak or comment while certain issues on the agenda are being discussed.
“This is a forum for the council to do business,” Green said. “The public is more than welcome to listen and they can make any comment they want during the comments from the audience time.”
Resident Jim Rippy said that residents might have something important to say during discussions that can be held more than an hour after the public comment period.
Also at issue is a new policy of filling out a card to comment. Green said it was a policy the city adopted from their attorney. Green said it had been a policy for several council meetings, however there is no record of the process before last night.