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Council delays cottage vote

BY BILL COONEY | JANUARY 21, 2015 5:00 AM

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The Iowa City City Council voted 5-2 to defer first consideration on rezoning the Dubuque Street cottages as local historic landmarks with Councilors Jim Throgmorton and Kingsley Botchway in the negative.

Now, the City Council will consult with the Planning and Zoning Commission before reopening the consideration on Feb. 9.

“Because there is an indecision tonight, and we can't go along with the Planning and Zoning Commission decision, we have to have a consultation with it before we can continue the public hearing,” Mayor Pro Tem Susan Mims said.

“They should defer [the vote]; this meeting could have gone longer,” Iowa City resident Rebecca Rosenbaum said. “It would have been good for the council to share what they were thinking; it would have given everyone who showed up tonight something to chew on until the next meeting.”

Throgmorton proposed that the councilors share their ideas on the rezoning without divulging how they were going to vote. The councilors ultimately chose not to share their ideas.

The Dubuque Street cottages are located on the 600 block of South Dubuque Street. Built in the mid-19th century, they were constructed originally as homes for working-class families. In more recent years, they have housed several Iowa City businesses.

Ted Pacha, who was at the public hearing, owns the cottages.

“This is not about the properties on Dubuque Street,” he said. “This is about built-up anger and frustration about rezoning and development in Iowa City, and I'm caught in the middle of it.”

Cities such as Iowa City take the time to ensure preservation of mansions and grand houses, but they have not protected the homes of people who built Iowa City, said Alicia Trimble, the executive director of the Friends of Historic Preservation.

“This is incredibly rare architecture today,” she said.

However, not all who shared their opinions were in favor of keeping the cottages.

Iowa City resident Bob Elliott said he was surprised and disappointed at how readily property rights could be taken away.

“It seems very slight to me that these cottages have such historic value it warrants taking away someone’s property rights,” he said.

Structural engineer Jim Jacobs, hired by Pacha, said his professional opinion was that the cottages were unsafe.

Jacobs referred to pictures showing the poor condition of the bricks and mortar and walls bowing outward. He argued that the buildings are dangerous and should be removed.

“When someone buys property, they buy it because they want to be able to make decisions with that property,” said James McCarragher, the attorney for Pacha.

“A vote yes would make historic structures which require hundreds of thousands of dollars in repair and are beyond their use.”


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