Iowa City group prepares for next step in fight against 'The Chauncey' development

BY NICK HASSETT | MARCH 27, 2013 5:00 AM

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For an Iowa City group focused on fighting against a new 20-story development in Iowa City, a planning and zoning measure could be its last chance to stop it.

The Iowa Coalition Against the Shadow, a group of Iowa City residents headed by Jon Fogarty and Rockne Cole, is organizing against the Moen Group’s Chauncey development, set to be located at the intersection of College and Gilbert Streets.

The group members met Tuesday night at the Iowa City Public Library, 123 S. Linn St., to discuss their next steps for stopping the development.

“We may never go in [the Chauncey building], but it’s our community, and it’s our business,” Fogarty said.

The main focus for the group is the rezoning of the intersection to CB-5 zoning, which would only allow for up to 75-foot buildings. The Chauncey development would need to seek CB-10 zoning, which has essentially no height limit.

Fogarty says the group was the first community organization in Iowa City to file a petition to rezone public property, and while the effort may be out of the ordinary, Cole thinks the zoning itself is a no-brainer.

“What we’re seeking to do is not unconventional at all,” he said. “The CB-5 designation provides a buffer between the threatened neighborhoods and downtown development.”

The group believes that the Chauncey development does not adhere to the vision of the Iowa City comprehensive plan, adopted in 1997. The plan “guides decisions on planning and development issues as they arise, and it evolves as amendments are made,” according to the city’s website.

“I don’t understand why they would want to increase the density there to CB-10,” Iowa City resident Nancy Carlson said. “It doesn’t take the comprehensive plan into account; nothing about it makes sense.”

Cole said the city hasn’t addressed that issue.

“From the mayor, the councilors — not one person from the city has said to me, ‘You’re wrong on the comprehensive plan,’ ” he said.

Several people at the meeting thought if CB-10 zoning is approved for the Chauncey, it could bring about a wave of others hoping to rezone their properties.

“You can see the city coming out to the neighborhoods,” Cole said. “We want development for downtown, but we want the neighborhoods to be safe.”

Developer Marc Moen told The Daily Iowan on Monday the city planned to move forward with his 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.”

The coalition plans to speak at the Planning and Zoning Commission’s meeting on April 4, in which the committee will take up the rezoning issue. The voting results of the committee are nonbinding on the City Council, which ultimately makes the final decision on zoning issues, but the group hopes a vote for CB-5 zoning would force the council into a public discussion on the matter.

If the effort to rezone the intersection fails, Cole said, the group may consider legal action in the long term as a last resort, but he hopes the council will “do the right thing.”

And if the measure to stop the Chauncey is unsuccessful, the group hopes to bring up the issue around election season.

“In May, [councilors] will start declaring their intent to run again,” Cole said. “Hopefully, we’ll defeat every city councilor who voted for this.”

Whatever happens with the development, Cole is confident that the group is in for the long haul.

“This effort is not a flash in the pan,” he said. “The Planning and Zoning meeting is just the first step.”

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