Iowa City City Council split on changes to Linn-Bloomington intersection


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The Iowa City City Council voted Tuesday to approve one of two measures that could significantly change the intersection of Linn and Bloomington Streets.

When local developer Jesse J. Allen approached the city about constructing a mixed-use, commercial-apartment building at the corner, officials determined they would have to alter two regulations: one for zoning and one for land-use designation.

At Tuesday's meeting, councilors voted to approve the change to the land use designation rule. Following a 4-3 vote, developers are now allowed to use the land for commercial use. Mayor Matt Hayek, Councilor Connie Champion and Councilor Mike Wright dissented.

However, the council voted 5-2 against the rezoning proposal, meaning structures at the site must still be used for single-family homes, as opposed to a numerous-unit apartment complex. Councilors Terry Dickens and Regenia Bailey voted in favor of the proposal.

Bailey said the proposed building offered an opportunity for economic development in the area.

"I work with small businesses. Looking for affordable small spaces is a challenge, and this might provide that opportunity," she said. "This is the kind of innovation we need to start seeing in the community."

Allen's proposal included a building with 17 apartment units and three bottom-level space for small businesses.

The proposal evoked a plethora of community response, with many residents from the North Side coming to prevent what they called encroachment on a nearby historic preservation community.

John Thomas, a member of the North Side Neighborhood Association, expressed his opposition Tuesday night.

"It was viewed at the time that we really needed to stop the bleeding of the North Side and the loss of single-family homes," Thomas said, referring to the zoning enacted three years ago to preserve the area.

Christina Web-Reynolds, another North Side resident, was also concerned.

"Too much concentration in one area generally is not a good rule to follow," she said. "I understand that a bigger complex means more money … If I don't like it, I can move, but then what? Stabilization fails. Proposals and plans should be in keeping with intended plans of a neighborhood."

However, Councilor Susan o said she supported the expansion of commercial land use to the area but said she had concerns about residential density.

"That's a concern we keep coming back to — the lack of office space, lack of small space for offices or retail," she said. "It gives a cohesiveness to that whole area that I think makes sense."

Wright said he believes changing codes and policies would eventually lead to increased development and infringement on the neighborhood.

"I take issue with changing [the code] so rapidly. It may well have long term ramifications for the North Side neighborhood," he said. "… Sooner or later, this needs to stop, or the neighborhood's going to die a death of a thousand cuts."

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