Washington Evening Journal
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Fairfield Ledger   Mt. Pleasant News
Neighbors Growing Together | Jul 24, 2017

Proposed zoning change doesn’t move to council

By David Hotle | Jul 12, 2017
Disscussions on re-zoning the land around the former Calendar Factory began in December of 2016. A project to rehabilitate two vacant buildings in Washington that could have brought up to $5 million in renovations to the city may have died Tuesday evening at a city planning and zoning board meeting when a proposal to change zoning on one of the buildings died for lack of a second.

 

A proposed project to rehabilitate two vacant buildings in Washington that could have brought up to $5 million in renovations to the city may have died Tuesday evening at a city planning and zoning board meeting when a proposal to change zoning on one of the buildings died for lack of a second.

After hearing from about 15 people who opposed changing the zoning of the former McCleery-Cumming Calendar Factory at 628 E. Third Street from light industrial to general business as part of a deal with Hobart Historic Restoration of Cedar Rapids to convert the building multi-family housing and commercial/business space, board member Merle Hagie made the motion to send the zoning change to the city council. None of the other members seconded the motion and commission chair Deran DeLong declared the motion dead for lack of a second.

“I don’t know where we are going to go from here,” Jim Hobart of Hobart Historical Restoration said after the meeting. He said he planned to speak with Washington City Administrator Brent Hinson to see if there are any options.

Mayor Sandra Johnson, who was at the meeting in the audience, said she is concerned no use would be found for the buildings and that the city would end up having to incur the cost to demolish them.

The city had been working on the project for at least two years. The project would have renovated the Calendar Factory and Goncho Apartments at 306 N. Marion Ave. into apartments. Recently, the county had considered locating the county public health building in the former calendar factory building. The county board of supervisors had voted against the proposal.

During the meeting people opposed to the rezoning, mostly people who owned businesses that neighbored the former calendar factory, expressed concern about putting apartments into the building.

Tom Vittetoe, who owns the property across the street from the building, asked if any Hobart properties have buildings next to ag-related businesses. Hobart said there is.

Wilfred Vittetoe asked why Hobart hadn’t brought a schematic of the proposed building to the meeting. He was informed the firm wasn’t moving forward with planning until it is known that the zoning is changed and the plan is even feasible. Wilfred Vittetoe encouraged Hobart to move ahead with the plan to renovate Goncho Apartments first and not to rehabilitate the former calendar factory until the results are known.

“With all the industry around there, to stick something right in the middle of it someone will complain,” Wilfred Vittetoe said. “With the dryer screaming in the fall — we have had all kinds of complaints about fireworks because people can’t sleep, how can they sleep with the dryers on at night?”

Resident Karen Gorham also said the area is the wrong place to put apartments.

“I just think it is the wrong thing in the wrong place at the wrong time,” Gorham said. “Let’s keep that an area where we might attract other kinds of businesses that are appropriate and fit with the businesses there.”

Hobart said the plans had been to rehabilitate the building and install 16 one-bedroom apartments, as well as make some commercial space on the first floor. He said the planning for the rehabilitation wouldn’t go far until the firm knew the building could be zoned in the way it needed to be for the project. He said there had been discussion about covered parking.

Parking was one of the concerns brought up during the meeting. Zoning official Steve Donnolly commented that for a 16-apartment building there would need to be 32 parking spaces plus two handicapped spaces.

“The people we market to are empty nesters and young professionals,” Hobart said. “Our units are nice. We attract people who are college graduates, working class who have decent incomes.”

 

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