Rezoning request returns

Jacob Lane · Wednesday, August 27, 2014
The council covered several smaller community issues while addressing a rezoning request during its meeting Tuesday, Aug. 19.

To begin, the council discussed a request from developer Brad Akers about rezoning the 1500 block section of North Elm Street from R1 to R3.

Akers would like to adjoin the properties into a ranch condominium with 20 housing units that he hopes to sell; however, its current zoning, R1, only allows for one home per lot. Rezoning to R3 would allow multi-unit housing.

Akers says it will be similar to the condominium on the end of 16th Street, at the cul-de-sac.

The council was supposed to set a public hearing; however, it ultimately decided to send Akers' plans to the WL zoning committee instead. The committee will hold a meeting Thursday, Aug. 28, to discuss the logistics.

Akers invites the community to attend the meeting to look over his plans.

This is not the first time lots 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6 of the James First addition have been brought before the council for rezoning; back in July 2012 owners Brian and Craig James made a similar request.

Ultimately the council unanimously denied a second reading of the proposal, stopping the rezoning request for the two. It's main reason was the lack of plans accompanying the request, details on what would happen to the lots were too vague for the council.

However, Akers has provided plans for the building directly to the council. He also has agreed to do a Planned Urban Development (PUD) agreement.

PUD allows him, as a developer, some flexibility with existing zoning requirements so long as he fulfills criteria set by the city and works with the council.

During the meeting building plans for his development were passed around the council. After looking them over, the council agreed to send the plans to the WL Zoning Committee.

No final decisions have been made as of yet. After the zoning committee gives its input the council will set a public hearing before it makes a final decision about rezoning the property.

Back in July of 2012 community members from the neighboring 15th and 16th streets showed up to the public hearing to voice their opposition to the zoning change. This was another reason the rezoning request was denied.

"The concern a few years ago from all of those homeowners around there had was that they chose to build on those lots and live on those lots because all of the surrounding areas were zoned R1," said council member Melody Russell.

It's a difficult situation, on one hand, property owners near the possible development may still not want to see the lots changed out of fear that a new building would change the dynamic of the community.

On the other hand, West Liberty is in the middle of an apartment shortage, as highlighted in a previous article by the Index. Several people looking to move to town cannot find a place to stay.

According to Akers, plans for the new development would include sidewalks, balconies and basements. At the same time, it may present an additional problem to the city.

"Also, the circuit that comes off from the power house is pretty loaded, and you’re going to add a housing complex instead of four [homes]….that's going to be a pretty good size load," said Electrical Superintendent Ed Tvrs. "We might not be able to handle that without going and doing some reworking of our city utilities."

Tvrs was referring to the Clark Street feeder, which allocates how much electricity that area of town receives.

In order to create the additions, the city may need to address the way electricity is allocated to the feeder, which may or may not mean construction.

It's too early to tell, not to mention that Akers is planning a gradual build of his development so that it shouldn't overload the feeder all at once.

Of course, this is all just talk at the moment. As the zoning committee looks into the plans the city will also look into its own responsibilities.

Next, the council approved writing off the sewer portions of water bills for two separate residents on Elder Ridge Road that had the same problem.

WL Electrical Superintendent Ed Tvrs and Muscatine County Sheriff Dave White both returned home to find water spilled everywhere.

In both cases the culprit was a broken coil hose, which spilled out 5,000 gallons of water at the residence of Tvrs and 14,000 gallons at the residence of White.

Both paid off the water consumption portion of their bills; however, they asked for the sewer portion to be waived because the water did not go back into WL sewers, it pooled up at their homes.

Water bills assume that residents both consume water from the city and then send it back to the city, putting both costs into one bill.

For Tvrs the sewer amount was $25.15 while for White it was $70.42. City Clerk Missy Carter stated that WL Water Superintendent George Pearl assessed both situations to ensure water didn't go into the sewers.

"Don't leave them on," added Tvrs about the coil hose, "If you use it make sure you turn it off before you’re done with it or it'll blow up."

Next, the city council approved a Parks and Recreation Expendable Trust Fund for Maintenance Improvement.

The parks department and the costs to maintain the parks are both handled by the City of West Liberty, it sees this as its duty to provide recreation opportunities and improve the quality of life.

However, maintenance and purchase of equipment often exceeds the amount of money the city allocates towards the parks department each year.

This stand alone fund was created to address the problem, made up purely from donations and memorials given to the parks department.

The city will continue to fund the department, like its many other obligations. The trust fund is only for donations on top of those city funds.

This is in response to a full scale fundraiser launched in summer 2014 by the department to aid the Dutton Athletic Sports Complex.

The complex, which boasts four baseball diamonds, tennis courts and a skate park, is in need of maintenance and repair.

Money raised by this fundraiser will be put in the trust fund and can be accessed by the department when it needs it. However, language in the resolution states money in the expandable fund can only be used for parks, it cannot be put into the city's general fund.

Finally, a public hearing was set for Sept. 2, the next council meeting, regarding the use of a city sidewalk in front of 113 East Third Street.

Juan and Yolanda Miraz recently purchased the building that houses their business, Yolanda's Salon, and are currently making repairs to turn the upstairs area into a rentable space.

Currently there is no safe access to the apartment, tenants have to walk across a roof in the back after climbing an old wooden staircase.

Juan Miraz wants to connect an existing set of stairs that go from upstairs onto the sidewalk, right now they lead from upstairs into the business section. This will be much like many of the apartment entrances on Third Street.

However, do so he'll have to build on several inches of the sidewalk for the stairs’ base, similar to how the West Liberty Food's Market’s stairs are now.

It won't cut off sidewalk access entirely, there’ll still be several feet of room, but since the sidewalk is a public right of way the council opted to hold a public hearing before approving the construction.

"As just a suggestion to the council, I kind of like the city attorney's idea of holding a public hearing just to set forth that we don't set a precedent that just for any reason we're allowing people to build out [on the sidewalk]," said Mayor Hartman

In other business…

-The city council approved a class C liquor license for Wink's Bar and Grille and for the St. Louis Sport Bar, as well as a class E Liquor license for Giri's Liquor Store of Giri BP.

-The council approved a vendor/vouchers claims list in the amount of $268,267.51 less payroll.

-The city staff will look into trading in the city's Chevrolet Volt for another vehicle, since the car can no longer hold a charge and is useless in winter. The vehicle is used by city council and staff for city related work.

-Instead of continuing to renew a lease for 20 acres north of Dutton Park of city owned property to Mr. Stagg for farming, the council decided to bid it out for renting in a 4-1 vote, with council member Bill Cline opposed.

Their reasoning is they want to get the going rate for the land, since they've renewed the lease with Stagg for several years. They said they will give Stagg first option.
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