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Group opposing The Chauncey development in Iowa City to meet tonight

BY JONATHAN SOLIS | MARCH 26, 2013 5:00 AM

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A shadow may soon creep over the Trinity Episcopal Church, which sits across the street from the planned construction site of the 20-story Chauncey building.

However, a group of concerned citizens has a plan to stop the construction before it can get off the ground, with some saying today’s meeting is “just the beginning” of the process to halt the building’s construction.

The Iowa Coalition Against the Shadow will meet today to organize an effort to rezone the intersection of College and Gilbert Streets, effectively blocking the development of the proposed tower, backed by the Moen Group.

The Iowa City City Council approved the development of the Chauncey in January. The building will include residential and office space as well as entertainment venues.

Leaders of the Shadow Coalition have petitioned the city’s Planning and Zoning Commission to rezone the block to CB-5, which would set the maximum height of buildings at 75 feet. In order to accommodate the proposed Chauncey height, the city’s Planning and Zoning Commission would have to approve a CB-10 zone.

The petition is set to appear at the commission’s next meeting, April 4, said Jon Fogarty, a cofounder of the coalition.

“This proposal should be a slam dunk,” Mark McCallum said, who helped write the petition. “Our proposal is asking the city to reaffirm the decisions made when they wrote the Iowa City comprehensive plan.”

The comprehensive plan guides decisions on planning and development issues in Iowa City and emphasizes “extensive citizen participation.”

However, McCallum said it’s strange that the comprehensive plan wasn’t considered more before the City Council voted in favor of Moen’s proposal.

City Councilor Jim Throgmorton was the only one to vote against the proposal. In a letter to the council, he voiced some of the concerns shared by the group.

“It is especially important that … the scale (height and mass) of the building be appropriate for a transitional zone between downtown and the residential neighborhood to its east,” he said in the letter.

McCallum stressed that the coalition members are not working against urban development. They hope to see urban development increase south of Burlington Street, in accordance with the comprehensive Plan.

“We simply want the City Council and Planning and Zoning Commission to support their own plan,” he said.

Those who voted in favor of Moen’s project believe the Chauncey was the right choice.

City Councilor Connie Champion said the proposed multipurpose building would include theaters, hotel rooms, art spaces, and bowling alleys.

Despite the opposition from some citizens, she said, these aspects make it the best choice for residents and the future of Iowa City.

While the coalition believes that the Planning and Zoning Commission will agree with their proposal, developer Moen said he’s carrying forward with the plan.

“We’re in the middle of negotiating the development agreement with the city,” he said. “In the request for proposals, the City Council asked for urban density development plans, and they liked mine the best.”

As far as the efforts of the coalition go, Moen said he didn’t know much about its plans.

But he may soon learn more about the coalition’s grievances if the City Council passes their zoning petition.

McCallum said he’s seen around 80 people attend the meetings so far.

The hearing is set for the middle of April.

While those who oppose the Chauncey are optimistic about their chances, they say that it’s still possible they may lose.

“Even if the Planning and Zoning Commission supports its own plan, it’s very possible that the City Council will think they know better,” McCallum said.


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