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Council nixes cottage hearing

BY NICK MOFFITT | DECEMBER 10, 2014 5:00 AM

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The Iowa City City Council in a special session on Tuesday did not delay demolition of three 150-year-old cottages on South Dubuque Street.

The council did not set a public hearing on the cottages on a 4-3 vote, with Mayor Matt Hayek and Councilors Susan Mims, Terry Dickens, and Michelle Payne voting no.

Ted Pacha, the owner of the cottages, was satisfied that the City Council affirmed his property rights.

During the meeting, Pacha said he was simply trying to preserve his family’s financial future in light of his battle with cancer.

“My intention was to go and do a simple thing — rezone my property — that I have owned for 30 years,” he said.

Pacha will now be eligible to be issued a demolition permit starting Wednesday. Had a public hearing been approved, it would have put a 60-day moratorium on the issuance of that permit.

The cottages house the Book Shop, 608 S. Dubuque St., Suzy’s Antiques & Gifts, 610 S. Dubuque St., and Moy Yat Ving Tsun Kung Fu Academy, 614 S. Dubuque St.

Dickens was the last to speak during the council’s deliberation, during which the council seemed split 3-3.

“I actually took a tour of the buildings,” Dickens told *The Daily Iowan*. “I could pull bricks out of the building with my bare hands.”

The structural disrepair was the main reason Dickens said he voted no.

Councilor Jim Throgmorton, who voted yes for the public hearing, said voting no was shortsighted.

“Every older building in Iowa City has features not unlike those shown,” he said.

Throgmorton said the owner’s responsibility for the condition of the buildings is something that should have further been looked at.

“It is the owner’s responsibility, especially if there are tenants, to keep [the cottages] in good repair,” he said.

Mims said the City Council is very much in support of historic preservation if it is done correctly.

“There is no doubt that we have in the past been sensitive to and been open to preserve this community,” she said. “Those came through in an appropriate and timely process.”

Those in favor of the public hearing drew from the Riverfront Crossings Plan and its mention of the cottages. Hayek said he read through those documents and came to a different conclusion.

“It is clear from the language in that plan that the decision is up to the property owner,” he said.

Hayek contended that call for historic preservation was rushed and wasn’t the right way to go about things.

“I would say it’s the 11th and a half hour,” he said during the meeting. “I think the right way is through incentives and orderly process, but not this process.”

Alicia Trimble, the executive director of the Friends of Historic Preservation, said the process isn’t complete yet, and there is still the potential to make the buildings historic landmarks.

She said now the petition will come in front of the Historic Preservation Commission, which will meet Thursday. If the members approve the application, it would then move to the Planning and Zoning Commission, who would then possibly pass it back in front of City Council.

Pacha said it is not his intention to demolish the buildings soon, while Trimble said tenants of the cottages have retained legal counsel because they have leases.

Trimble said the process was misunderstood by the City Council.

“There is a lot of education about the subject to be done,” she said.


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