OTTUMWA — The Ottumwa Veterinary Clinic is well on its way to being rezoned into a commercial district.
The City Council unanimously approved the second reading of the clinic's request to be rezoned from R-1 Single Family Residential to C-1 Retail Business despite protestations from three neighbors. A final reading remains on May 21 before the zoning change could go into effect.
Today, the legal non-conforming use status of the property means the clinic cannot expand on its current footprint.
Planning Director Dave Shafer said the clinic is requesting to be rezoned in order to "provide the flexibility of being able to construct a new building or expand on the existing building."
Jane Fritz, one neighbor to the clinic, said she's frustrated by a lack of information, a lack of answers and "what seems to be a done deal before it even got started."
"A zoning change can have a significant impact on a community, and the request should not be taken lightly," she said. "Any number of C-1 businesses could go up in that location."
Richard Douglas, another neighbor, said since he moved into the residential neighborhood more than 20 years ago, "we believe it should stay a residential district ... and that doesn't meant rezoning one lot after another."
Shafer said since the property is a "legal non-conforming use," a new property owner could change it to another C-1 business subject to the approval of a conditional use permit.
"If it's a permitted use within C-1 and if a representative of that application should show adequate off-street parking and could provide some information showing that it would be a good neighbor and manage the business, whether it's a retail store or potentially a liquor store, it could be approved under a conditional use permit," Shafer said.
Neighbor Kevin Saylor also had concerns that the council could make a provisional zoning change, but City Attorney Joni Keith said the council cannot make provisional requests of individuals, according to City Code.
"I certainly understand why the council wants to reward a longstanding neighbor," Saylor said. "That I get."
But he said he doesn't understand how the council could approve a zoning change request when the business owner "was in no way ready to commit" to any plans or details on how the business would change or expand.
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