City & Government, Springfield

Council remains divided on indoor track location

SPRINGFIELD — Before last week’s City Council meeting, councilors held a work session to discuss updates from Willamalane and the Springfield Economic Development Agency (SEDA) Board regarding an indoor track and activity center proposal.
Councilors lined up on both sides of the issue.
Pro Tem City Manager Mary Bridget Smith told the board that Willamalane met on March 11 and discussed owning and operating the facility. Ultimately, it decided to not make pursue ownership, and instead offered to manage the facility.
City Councilor Sheri Moore cited multiple concerns, including whether the project should move forward during the COVID-19 pandemic. She also cited the sales and costs surrounding the North Glenwood property, relationshiops with nonprofit entities, and urged more public input before any decisions.
“With the stock market dropping, I’m concerned that we as a City are so in bed with the nonprofit that we can’t look at it from the citizens’ point of view,” Moore said. “Yes, maybe it would be a boom to the City but there are no guarantees.”
Councilor Sean VanGordon said that the nonprofit Springfield Community Development Council isn’t hiding anything, and the council needs to think about how any nonprofit would get involved with the City. There would be interaction and a proposal, and the City would not require a bunch of public involvement.
“I’m struggling why on one hand we’re thinking about asking a different thing for one nonprofit and not for another,” he said.
Councilor Marilee Woodrow said that it takes a lot of time and planning to move a project like this forward beyond just a vision and this idea has been on the community’s radar for three years.
“It covers a whole realm and we’re right at the cusp of saying yes,” she said. “This is our next step to find out what comes, we need to be willing to go where we can say yes or no.”
Councilor Leonard Stoehr said the City should take a step back until more research comes back on how Glenwood would be directly affected because there will be unintended circumstances.
Moore referenced past discussions of a conference center there, “and if it was anyone else they would buy the property and she’s not interested in just giving them that property.”
Mayor Christine Lundberg followed by explaining that the Glenwood Refinement Plan hinged on having development happen on that property. They had tried to sell it to a private company in the past for the conference center but it was never of interest.
“To put something that is actually a distinctive investment that will be recognized in Springfield as unique is something that we – I – believe we should embrace,” she said, adding that the project is similar to how the City has solidified its identity in the past.
Stoehr followed up saying that the Glenwood Refinement Plan also wants to protect and create affordable housing, which could be impacted by this development.
Councilor Joe Pishoneri helped close the session by explaining that the meetings of SEDA are online and public, as well as free to attend.



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