Letter to the Editor

BY DI READERS | JULY 08, 2015 5:00 AM

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Chauncey damages downtown sanctity

A week ago, Trinity Episcopal Church filed a petition for writ of certiorari in the 6th District Court. Trinity Church’s historic building is located across the street from the site of the proposed Chauncey Tower.

The petition is a request for judicial review of two elements of the City Council’s approval of unlimited density zoning for the controversial project: the council’s circumvention of the Iowa City Comprehensive Plan in rezoning the proposed site of the Chauncey from CB-5 to CB-10 and the city’s rejection of Trinity Church’s protest of the proposed rezoning.

Trinity’s governing board, the vestry, approved this action unanimously after careful deliberation. The parish is uniquely positioned to represent the substantial number of citizens who have communicated thoughtful and carefully reasoned opposition to construction of the Chauncey on the proposed site for more than two years.

The city’s response to that opposition has been polite and routine thanks, followed by actions that have discounted and disregarded the substance of the public comment. City officials and others have made judgments specifically about the legitimacy of Trinity’s objections. They have presumed to judge what is best for the congregation with no more than cursory understanding of the parish’s mission and the needs of its members. Their apparent lack of concern extends to the many neighbors of the Chauncey site who oppose its construction as planned.

The city offers a protocol for those who anticipate construction in established city neighborhoods. The Good Neighbor Program is outlined on the city’s website and described as a way to encourage “proactive dialogue among property owners, developers, and neighbors that may help identify and resolve issues before the project is reviewed by the Planning and Zoning Commission or the Board of Adjustment.” In the case of the Chauncey, the city declined to follow its own program. Never, during the course of the decision-making process was there an approach to Trinity or other neighbors that intentionally sought to understand and respond to the effect of the project from our point of view. Rather, Trinity was disparaged, described as “selfish,” “lacking pragmatism,” and “ignorant of the climate we operate in.”

The climate the City Council operates in is one in which its members are subject to the law and accountable to the citizens, regardless of their relative wealth or ability to contribute to a “vibrant” downtown, envisioned as the province of the young, accomplished, and well-to-do.

Rev. Lauren Lyon, Trinity Episcopal Church

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