By CHELSEA DAVIS Courier staff writer
---- — OTTUMWA — The Ottumwa Veterinary Clinic may be rezoned as a commercial district, but neighbors say what scares them about the decision is that the veterinarians can’t control what becomes of the clinic.
The City Council unanimously approved the first reading of an ordinance for rezoning of the clinic, 2305 N. Court St., from R-1 Single Family Residential to C-1 Retail Business District, much to the chagrin of the clinic’s neighbors.
Since the 1980s, the clinic has operated as a “legal non-conforming use,” which means the footprint of the structure must remain as is, said Planning Director Dave Shafer.
Dr. Steve Menke said the clinic has been modernized to the best of its ability, but due to its recent merger with Pipestone Veterinary Clinic, of Pipestone, Minn., expansion is essential.
“We can’t make a business decision until you tell us we can change our footprint,” Menke said.
Neighbors said that was not a sufficient explanation. If the clinic received C-1 status and were to ever leave the location, neighbors said other unwanted businesses could move in, such as bars or taverns.
“We as citizens of the area have a difficult time with the fact that he can’t commit to what it is he wants to put on the property,” said neighbor Jane Fritz. “Just because it’s always been there doesn’t meant that it should remain there and should be re-zoned to be a commercial district. Rezoning opens the window to any one of the approved businesses listed in the code under C-1.
“We don’t want any of these businesses in our neighborhood, in our front yards and in our faces.”
Fritz questioned how the council could approve the rezoning if they don’t know the clinic’s plans for the property.
“I think he should have to say exactly what he’s going to use the property for before anyone can make an informed decision on rezoning that property,” Fritz said.
But, Shafer said, those applying for a C-1 Retail Business District rezoning are not required to present a site plan. Menke’s request to be designated as a “veterinary surgical clinic” falls under the C-1 classification.
“The residents are correct,” Shafer said. “Once it’s rezoned to C-1, it could change to the other permitted uses within C-1.”
Eric Fritz shared his wife Jane’s concerns.
“He’s [Menke] asking you to rezone a residential property as C-1 with absolutely no guarantee what it will ever be and with no control over what it will ever be,” he said.
CLARIFICATION: In Wednesday's article, "City council approves veterinary clinic rezoning despite protest," it stated that the council unanimously approved rezoning the Ottumwa Veterinary Clinic, 2305 N. Court St., from R-1 Single Family Residential to C-1 Retail Business District.
The council did unanimously approve the first reading of the ordinance. There are still two more readings of the ordinance until the rezoning could take effect. The second reading will take place at the May 7 council meeting; the third reading will take place at the May 21 council meeting.