Councilors move forward with housing and parking amendments

BY KRISTEN EAST | APRIL 18, 2012 6:30 AM

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The Iowa City city councilors face little opposition as they move forward with a set of proposed rezoning amendments targeting rental housing and high-density units.

The City Council held two public hearings at its meeting Tuesday night on the two amendments. One would establish three as the maximum number of bedrooms allowed in a multifamily housing unit in multifamily zones. The other would require at least one parking space per bedroom for multifamily housing units in the University Impact Area.

Following little input from the public, councilors approved the first consideration of each amendment.

"[People are asking] where are students going to live? There's still a lot of available land to live on," City Councilor Connie Champion said. "Nobody wants to kick the students out of town. This is not an anti-student-housing campaign. This is about better living conditions for everybody."

The city received roughly 120 petitions on the two rezoning amendments, but the threshold required to impose a supermajority vote — when six of the seven City Councilors must vote yes — was not reached. Senior city planner Robert Miklo said at least 20 percent of people affected by the rezoning proposals were required to submit petitions for that to occur.

The first consideration of the amendment regarding the number of bedrooms in multifamily housing units was passed on a 7-0 vote. However, the public brought more discussion to the parking-space amendment.

Councilors approved the first consideration on a 6-1 vote with Councilor Terry Dickens voting no.

Iowa City resident Nancy Carlson said she consistently has trouble finding parking near her home on Jefferson Street, where nonresidents often park.

"I know what it's like living there, and I know what it's like for everyone living there to live there," she said. "Sometimes, it's very uncomfortable."

Former City Councilor Mike Wright expressed similar concerns. Wright said he's noticed instances in which three unrelated people are living together but have six cars outside their residence.

"It's a 20-minute walk to the university, tops," he said. "People who walk every day still bring their cars to town."

Planning and Zoning officials said the parking amendment only applies for new multifamily dwellings built in the University Impact Area. Existing units are grandfathered in, said Karen Howard, an associate city planner.

In addition to moving forward, several councilors expressed interest in reviewing recommendations provided by the Iowa City Homeowners Association before voting on the second and third considerations of the rezoning amendments.

Dickens said it was in the council's best interest to review the recommendations.

"I would really like to see the area defined a little more where we're talking about under these proposed amendments," he said.

City Councilors also approved in a 7-0 vote the second consideration of another rezoning amendment changing the City Code definition of "household" to a maximum of 3 unrelated people living in one housing unit.

An ordinance requires three readings. Councilors will vote on subsequent considerations of the proposed rezoning amendments at its next meeting May 1.

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