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Proposal targeting student housing draws fiery reaction

BY KRISTEN EAST | FEBRUARY 22, 2012 6:30 AM

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City councilors got an earful about a proposal targetting student housing near downtown Iowa City on Tuesday night.

The proposal calls for changing the definition of "household" as it currently applies in the City Code. Approval of the item would reduce the number of unrelated persons who may reside in one housing unit to a maximum of three in the University Impact Area.

Locals at Tuesday night's City Council meeting debated whether the council should open the measure up for public input or refer it to the Planning and Zoning Committee for advice.

After nearly 90 minutes of varied public comments, the council approved a public hearing on the item by a 4-3 vote. Councilors Connie Champion, Susan Mims, Jim Throgmorton, and Mayor Matt Hayek voted in favor. The hearing will take place at the March 6 meeting.

Many community members feared the City Council didn't know enough about housing change and thought councilors would benefit from having the Planning and Zoning Commission's consideration.
Glenn Siders, the vice president of SouthGate Development Services, urged councilors to go about their regular process and postpone the public hearing until later.

Casey Cook, a local resident, also thought the council should refer to the Planning and Zoning Commission first.

"I encourage you to do some analysis on the true cost of our options," he said. "I encourage you to refer these questions to the public process, and engage the planning and zoning commission."

Hayek disagreed, saying he was comfortable with holding a public hearing on the item.

"Doing it this way is not unprecedented," he said. "We don't have projects as significantly or immediately affected by 7b as we do under [other current zoning issues.] The concerns about fairness are distinguishable."

Mims said she favored a public hearing, and that the council should act quickly on this issue.

"I think the overbuilding of these four- and five-bedroom units has been allowed to happen by previous councils for so long that it really warrants getting on this as quickly as we can," she said.


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