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Judge: 'Tremendous amount of evidence' to consider means ruling in University Heights lawsuit won't

Be Kind & Merciful developers want to put up commercial buildings in the University Heights neighborhood at the intersection of National Avenue and Sunshine Street, shown here on Nov. 8, 2023.
Gregory Holman/KSMU
Be Kind & Merciful developers want to put up commercial buildings in the University Heights neighborhood at the intersection of National Avenue and Sunshine Street, shown here on Nov. 8, 2023.

Yesterday, the Greene County judge presiding over the homeowners-versus-developer lawsuit called an unusual post-trial hearing.

After two hours of skeptical questions and highly technical debate, Judge Derek Ankrom said he hasn’t made up his mind. He doesn't anticipate a quick ruling in the civil lawsuit pitting historic Springfield homeowners against the defendant, development company BK&M.

BK&M wants to put a business on lots they own at the busy corner of Sunshine Street and National Avenue, a prospect that led to neighborhood opposition and the 2022 lawsuit.

Judge Ankrom said he'll be considering what he called a "tremendous amount of evidence" submitted by the parties including 700 pages of documents. Among those pages: century old deed restrictions. Plaintiffs argue they mean it's not legally possible to build anything in University Heights other than single-family homes.

Homeowners' attorney Bryan Wade argued the trove of evidence shows the restrictions remain "viable and reasonable" a century after the neighborhood was originally platted.

The case also involves subtle nuances of legal precedent that could tilt the judge's decision. Defense attorney Bryan Fisher characterized the homeowners’ arguments as a “patchwork quilt trying to piece together legal theories.”

Last month, the city announced that BK&M had withdrawn its earlier rezoning request and is expected to seek planned development status for its property in University Heights — requiring stricter plans and standards than commercial zoning.

Copyright 2024 KSMU. To see more, visit KSMU.

Gregory Holman