The Ottumwa Courier

May 21, 2013

Veterinary clinic rezoned to commercial

By CHELSEA DAVIS Courier staff writer
Ottumwa Courier

---- — 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.”

Neighbor Kevin Saylor asked the clinic’s partners to look the council and public in the eye and “say what you prefer to do” with the property in regards to expansion and possible acquisition of adjacent property.

“The unspoken problem is he won’t commit to staying on that location,” Saylor said.

Dr. Todd Williams, junior partner at the clinic, said the clinic’s “wish and desire is to remain” on North Court Street.

“Everyone in our practice would like to stay where we are today,” Williams said. “But we have to evaluate: is there enough land in our location? There are six vets on that site, and already three of us are at another location. That alone tells us that site is not enough.”

Councilman Brian Morgan noted that as long as a C-1 business doesn’t change the property’s footprint, provides adequate off-street parking and shows that there is a need in the community for his or her business, he or she could move a C-1 business onto the property as it stood as a residential district.

“It’s going to be extremely tough for you folks to keep something out of there that you don’t want,” said Councilman Mitch Niner.

To follow reporter Chelsea Davis on Twitter, head to @ChelseaLeeDavis.