Using tax dollars or city incentives for required infrastructure upgrades and construction of new homes at 1404 First Ave. W., “would be better spent elsewhere,” a Newton resident said of the city’s proposal earlier this month to rezone the commercial thoroughfare property to single and two-family residences.
Craig Decker, of Newton, told city council at its Dec. 6 meeting that he has lived on sight of property on and off for the past 60 years. He claimed the land directly west of the Newton Community School District bus barn has been on sale at a discount for many years.
Other than serving as a neighborhood plot garden decades ago, Decker couldn’t remember what the vacant property had been used for in the past. With its proximity to First Avenue, the property struck him as a prime business location. So he asked why it had not been developed earlier.
“I can tell you from my experience – and I think history and your own data will prove to me on this – that this property sits on a topographic floodplain and is not suitable for building many anything, let alone… family homes, ”Decker said. , noting that he is concerned about drainage and water accumulation on the land.
The topography of the entire area bounded by nearby Highway 14 to the west, 11th Street West North to the east and Fourth Avenue Northwest to the north points directly to that specific area, Decker argued. He also said that the street drainage runs through the property and that there are other issues.
“Vehicle access to the property and the street parking situation at 15th Place Northwest, the lack of sidewalks, et cetera, et cetera, the list goes on,” he said.
When rezoning was proposed at the Planning and Zoning Commission meeting on November 2, city planner Brian Dunkelberger said no neighbors had reached out in advance. According to the meeting minutes, he also summarized how the overall plan applied to rezoning.
Even the members of the commission were concerned about the layout of the property. At that point, member Jane Johnson asked about the site’s drainage and how the design would address these issues. Dunkelberger said those details will be chopped up during the plating process.
The commission would then pass the motion recommending council approval for the rezoning of the property.
Still, Decker challenged the board to familiarize themselves with the surrounding properties and then explain to them how the new single-family homes will adapt to “the stable and long-established neighborhood makeup and not cause more stains on the house. aging infrastructure, parking and drainage issues.
“Our tax money, tax incentives for infrastructure upgrades required to build new homes would be better spent elsewhere,” he said.
Council member Steve Mullan lived in the area and was very familiar with what Decker was talking about, and he also said the land was a great place for gardens. But there is a drainage issue on the east side of the property, Mullan said, and it would need to be addressed if the area is developed.
Municipal documents indicate that the property is currently zoned in the “CA” or arterial commercial zoning district, as well as the land immediately to the east and south. To the north and west, the land is zoned “R-2” or residential uni and two-family.
Although residential use is permitted in the District of CA, the rezoning of the land to R-2 will “better accommodate” the development of single-family homes, the city said. The comprehensive plan also recognizes the benefits of residential uses along First Avenue, even when the majority of zoning designations are commercial.
Staff also found a goal in the overall plan that encouraged infill on vacant underutilized lots and worked to create a pleasant community entrance on Highway 14 and First Avenue West. The plan also indicated that housing development on the west side of Newton could attract young families.
Erin Chambers, Director of Community Development for the Town of Newton, reminded council members that the proposal is simply to rezone the property and not about potential development, house styles or land development. These details would be discussed when the pitch was platinum.
“The property currently has underlying lot lines. He was dumped many years ago. This area would be expected to be replaced either by a survey process or by the preliminary and final flat process, depending on the number of lot line adjustments made, ”Chambers said.
Fewer adjustments mean it can be an administrative process. More adjustments mean he would have to go through the Planning and Zoning Commission, then city council. Chambers noted that the top-down area is in line with the efforts and goals set out in the overall plan.
Even so, Chambers confirmed that Decker’s and Mullan’s comments on the drainage were correct. The east side of the property serves as the neighborhood drainage area, she said. With any future development, city ordinances would require that any new stormwater created should be retained on site.
“Part of the planning process for the development of this property would be how this drainage weight is protected so as not to create future problems by redirecting water, blocking water – it should continue to function as it does. currently operated as an undeveloped property, ”Chambers said.
The current owner, 2B Constructed Inc., has the idea of building residences on the land. The topography is “pretty restrictive,” Chambers said, and doesn’t provide a lot of developable space for a commercial property.
Additionally, the Iowa Department of Transportation has restricted direct access to the property from First Avenue West. Many years ago, the previous owners signed documents that denied them access to First Avenue. All development should have access to West 15th Street Place North.
Newton City Council passed the first and second readings in meetings on December 6 and 20, respectively. The final reading will be considered at the January 3 board meeting.
Contact Christopher Braunschweig at 641-792-3121 ext. 6560 or [email protected]