Iowa City commission nixes rezoning of Chauncey site; project to continue

BY NICK HASSETT | APRIL 19, 2013 5:00 AM

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It was a meeting that many against the Chauncey development in Iowa City considered to be their best chance to stop the “shadow.”

But ultimately, the Iowa City Planning and Zoning Commission decided to vote 5-2 against a zoning application that would have prevented the 20-story building from filling the space at the intersection of College and Gilbert Streets, which is currently public land.

Rockne Cole, Jon Fogarty, and Mark McCallum from the Iowa Coalition Against the Shadow submitted the application, which would have rezoned the parcel of land from Public (P-1) zone to Central Business Support (CB-5) zone.

CB-5 zoning would allow up to 75-foot buildings. The Chauncey development would need to seek CB-10 zoning, which has essentially no height limit.

Though only two members of the planning and zoning commission voted for the CB-5 rezoning, many members of the group expressed ambivalence about a CB-10 zoning.

“I’m not sure a six-story building is the best use of this parcel, but I don’t think a 20-story building is the best use, either,” panel head Ann Freerks said. “It’s completely out of character for that area.”
Commission member Charles Eastham, who voted for the rezoning, said the city’s comprehensive plan implied a CB-5 zoning would be best for the area.

“The purpose of the CB-5 zone is to transition between the central business district and adjoining areas,” he said. “All zoning decisions need to be based on the comprehensive plan as best as we can interpret and apply it.”

However, commission secretary Tim Weitzel said zoning the parcel of land without a development proposal to go along with it wasn’t prudent.

“We don’t have an actual project to weigh in on, so rezoning at this point is not appropriate,” he said.
And though much of the community comment had to do with the character of Iowa City, Weitzel said he thought one building wouldn’t tip the scales.

“I don’t think we’re going to lose our character that easily,” he said. “I think Iowa City is a little more resilient than that.”

Members of the community filled City Hall to voice their opinions on the rezoning, with most emphasizing their opposition to the Chauncey building itself.

“I think a lot of people in the community were somewhat taken aback that the City Council would make that decision [to approve the Chauncey building],” Yale Cohn said. “This council has been tone deaf to the will of the people.”

Chauncey developer Marc Moen declined to comment after the meeting.

Cole said he was proud of the community’s support of the rezoning and noted that the planning and zoning meeting wasn’t the end.

“This is just the first stage,” he said. “We’re going to keep going until the final decision is made, until the shovel is dug.”

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