Iowa City City Council to consider rezoning request for Chauncey location

BY NICK HASSETT | MAY 14, 2013 5:00 AM

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The Iowa City City Council approved the Moen Group’s Chauncey development in January, but more than four months later, the project is still being challenged — this time in City Hall.

The council will consider the College/Gilbert rezoning request this evening. The request would rezone the lot from a Public (P) to Central Business Support Zone (CB-5).

CB-5 zoning allows up to 75-foot buildings. As-is, the Chauncey development would need to seek CB-10 zoning, which has essentially no height limit.

The proposal includes two FilmScene theaters, residential and office space, and entertainment venues. It was originally slated to be 20 stories. However, in discussions between the city and the developer, the group agreed the building would not be 20 stories tall.

“The indication is that it’s not 20 [stories],” developer Marc Moen said. “There’s no decision yet on what height it will be.”

Previous discussions included the possibility of a 16-story building for the Chauncey proposal, but that’s still too high for the Iowa Coalition Against the Shadow, the group submitting the rezoning request.

“The height limitation is just one part, and even if it were 16 stories, it would still be the tallest building in the history of Iowa City,” said Rockne Cole, a member of the group. “It also uses TIF funding, and environmentally, it’s not very sustainable. Focusing on the height fits most into the zoning issue, but there are other concerns.”

Cole said if the zoning request passes, the group would consider working with Moen to develop a proposal that fits into the CB-5 zone.

But one Iowa City city councilor still plans on supporting the development at tonight’s meeting.

“I’m still in favor of the Moen building,” Councilor Connie Champion said. “At this point, I think it’s the best thing for the city.”

Champion said the height of the building, whether 16 or 20 stories, wouldn’t change her opinion.

John Yapp, the executive director of the Metropolitan Planning Organization of Johnson County, said it wasn’t entirely out of the ordinary for a group of citizens to apply for a zoning request for land they don’t own.

“It’s unusual but not unheard of,” he said. “Typically, when they’re rezoning for property someone doesn’t own, it’s a neighborhood-wide application.”

Yapp said while CB-10 zoning didn’t necessarily have a height limit, there were other factors to take into account.

“The only thing in the local zoning code [for CB-10 zoning] is a floor-to-area ratio of 15, meaning you can have 15 square feet of floor area for every one square foot of lot area,” he said. “The smaller the footprint, the taller it can be.”

The height of the building has been the most contentious issue at city meetings.

The rezoning request also went before the city’s Planning and Zoning Commission on April 18, where community members filled the seats of the council chamber to voice their opinions on the measure. Ultimately, that request was denied by a 5-2 vote. 

Champion expected the public to weigh in at tonight’s council meeting.

“I think it’ll be an interesting discussion with lots of input from the public,” she said. “I’m looking forward to it.”

Cole said he didn’t want to elaborate on the coalition’s plan if the rezoning request fails with the City Council, but the group would issue a public statement outlining the next step.

“We’re going to remain committed to all options; we’re still evaluating them,” he said. “We’re in it for the long term until a modification is made to this deal.”

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