OTTUMWA — The Ottumwa Veterinary Clinic is now officially a commercial district.
At Tuesday’s city council meeting, members voted 4-1 to approve the rezoning of the clinic from R-1 Single Family Residential to C-1 Commercial District, with Councilman J.R. Richards as the dissenting vote.
Neighbors have expressed concerns that if the clinic were to be rezoned, another more undesirable C-1 business could move in, such as a liquor store or gas station.
That could happen if the clinic were to be rezoned into a C-1 district and sold, said Planning Director Dave Shafer, but it could also happen if the clinic were to remain as an R-1 district, since it currently operates under a conditional use permit which allows the property to, in essence, function as a C-1 district.
To say it’s a residential property by itself “is not totally accurate,” Shafer said. Because it was grandfathered in, “it has C-1 permitted use.”
“So you’re saying as it sits right now, operating under a conditional use permit, if they were to sell it, then the next owner could come in and get a conditional use permit for any of the C-1 items?” asked neighbor Jane Fritz.
Yes, Shafer said. Currently, the clinic operates as a “legal non-conforming use.” The clinic was located in the county until it was annexed in to the city — and grandfathered in as a legal non-conforming use — in the 1980s.
But a legal non-conforming use means the property cannot expand on its footprint or change its structure, which is why the clinic’s owners want to rezone, Shafer said.
“It’s very important that we be able to grow our staff, and that’s one of the reasons for this request,” said Dr. Steve Menke, senior partner at the clinic. “Our goal in this C-1 change is to serve our clients, grow our employees, grow our business and to grow Ottumwa.”