The Ottumwa Courier

June 3, 2013

To rezone or not to rezone?

By CHELSEA DAVIS
Courier staff writer

---- — OTTUMWA — The tug-of-war continues in deciding whether to rezone the Ottumwa Veterinary Clinic.

After Mayor Frank Flanders vetoed the City Council's 4-1 vote to rezone the Ottumwa Veterinary Clinic from R-1 residential to C-1 commercial, two councilmen have placed the item back on Tuesday's agenda.

On Thursday, Councilmen Jeremy Weller and Bob Meyers requested a motion to re-pass and adopt the ordinance, which will require at least a 4-1 vote, said City Clerk Amanda Valent.

Flanders said the ordinance was an example of spot zoning and the clinic's neighbors' concerns were warranted, saying it would be "unfair favoritism of one over many."

He previously told the Courier that a switch from residential to commercial zoning is a large detractor from residential home values and if the clinic were to be sold, "it would open the possibility that a business undesirable for [that] traditionally residential neighborhood [could one day move into] that location."

Weller said that if the clinic were forced to relocate to a C-1 district, it would cost hundreds of thousands of dollars to purchase the land, a financial burden that would eventually lead to hiked rates at the clinic.

"Why not let him expand on the property he's owned for 27 years?" Weller said. "What I don't think people are grasping is it used to be in the county, it got annexed in and granted a non-conforming legal use [permit], so as long as they don't change the footprint of the building and have adequate parking, they can use it for whatever."

One citizen asked Weller if he would support a property being rezoned to a commercial district next to his own home. No, he wouldn't, Weller said.

"But I have houses next to me. I didn't move in next to a veterinary clinic," he said. "If I had moved in next to a building that had a business in it and 15 years down the road it needed to expand ... then I would support it, because I knew it when I bought a house next to a business. It's just a chance you take."

Neither Weller nor Meyers agree with the mayor that this ordinance could be considered spot zoning.

"To me, that's going in the middle of a neighborhood like mine, where there's nothing but homes, selling two houses and rezoning them as C-1," Weller said. "That's spot zoning to me. Taking a business that's established and has been operating as C-1 for decades [and rezoning it], that's not spot zoning."

Meyers said the spot zoning argument should have been brought up earlier on as a concern rather than waiting until the ordinance passed to mention it in the veto.

He also said the council went through correct procedures to pass the ordinance, which requires three readings before final adoption.

"In fact, twice the vote was 5-0, and the third time it was 4-1," Meyers said. "I didn't know the mayor was going to veto it until I read about it ... in the media. I was a little disappointed that he didn't explain to us individually what his thoughts were.

"I get the feeling sometimes that it's like, Bob doesn't really care for the neighbors and residents in the area, and I really do. I'm very sorry that their concerns are such that it makes for a debate like this, but I'm trying to base my decision on what I think is fair to the current zoning and future development for Ottumwa."

Before the regular meeting, the council will also receive a presentation of flood information at 5:30 p.m. More information can be found at www.cityofottumwa.org/flood.

The regular meeting will begin at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday in council chambers at City Hall. The meeting will air live on GO-TV, cable channel 6.