City Council set to vote on Chauncey tower

BY CORY PORTER | APRIL 17, 2015 5:00 AM

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The potential site of the Chauncey Tower, a subject of much debate, went before the Iowa City Planning and Zoning Commission once again on Thursday.

The vote was split 3-3, meaning it will go to the City Council without a majority vote for or against it.
Commission members opposed to the rezoning said the size of the Chauncey in that location wasn’t a good fit, while members in favor of it said the space should be developed to promote economic growth.

The commission's meeting on Thursday focused almost entirely on the rezoning of the northeast corner of College and Gilbert Streets, and many citizens took part in a tense and heated public discussion.  The meeting started at 7 p.m. and ended around 10:20 p.m.

Commission head Ann Freerks said despite all of the community members in attendance wanting to see growth, it was a matter of different perspectives that led to such a divide.

“I’d like to think that we can do this better next time,” she said. “I don’t want to have to be in this situation again.”

Officials from the Iowa City Department of Neighborhood and Development Services filed a rezoning application on March 25 for the Planning and Zoning Commission’s Thursday meeting.

The application was for an approximately 27,200-square-foot rezoning from what is mostly public property to a Central Business District, which would be the potential location of the Chauncey Tower.

Development Services coordinator John Yapp said despite the Chauncey getting the bulk of the attention, the goal of the commission was solely to vote on whether the space should be rezoned.

Architect Steve Rohrbach of Rohrbach Associates argued before the commission that the Chauncey Tower would be a leader in sustainability and modernity.

“With the design, [we] tried to make it as open and inviting and creative as possible,” he said.
Nancy Bird, the executive director of the Downtown District, said the board members of the group were unanimous in their support of any rezoning which would help downtown thrive economically.

Many citizens from the Episcopal Trinity Church were in attendance and argued the Chauncey Tower would not only cast a shadow on their church but make parking a hassle for many of the members it provides services to.

Ann Ruth McGraw, who attends the church, said the multitude of amenities the Chauncey would offer wouldn’t make it worth the negative effect its construction would have.

“It’s purpose is stated as mixed-use in the commercial sense, incorporating office, residential, and retail space. I believe its impact on the surrounding area will inhibit mixed-use in the larger sense of the term,” McGraw said.

Freerks was incredulous over the supposed negative impact the Chauncey would have on the church.

“I have a hard time with why this one thing, with whatever occurs here, would alter the mission [of the church], because I think it’s bigger than that,” she said.

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