By CHELSEA DAVIS Courier staff writer
---- — OTTUMWA — The Ottumwa Veterinary Clinic's neighbors' final chance at overturning the clinic's rezoning has been shot down.
The City Council voted 4-1 Tuesday to override Mayor Frank Flanders' veto of the clinic's rezoning from R-1 residential to C-1 commercial despite continued protest from several neighbors.
"Not sharing [their plan] makes me nervous," said neighbor Eric Fritz on behalf of a neighbor who was unable to attend the meeting. "The people of the neighborhood chose to buy a home next to a small vet clinic ... not to allow unrestricted commercial expansion of who knows what."
Neighbor Richard Douglas raised concerns again that rezoning the property to a commercial district would raise its tax value while damaging his.
"Gentlemen, this is a very bad decision," Douglas said. "Please, don't destroy our residential neighborhood."
Flanders said the citizens' arguments have proven "more compelling" than any made by council or city staff, which influenced his decision to veto.
Councilman Mitch Niner said Flanders' previous comment that the rezoning could be considered spot zoning was "ridiculous."
"You've already purchased a house next to a business," Niner said. "More than likely, any kind of property depreciation has already happened."
But neighbor Jackie Topolinski said that's not the case, that in fact her property value has increased greatly in the last 14 years.
Neighbor Mark Eigsti said the clinic and its new partner providing no plans for expansion makes him nervous.
Topolinski agreed, saying the residential area is not meant for "excessive businesses."
"Especially ones where we have no clue what's coming in or what could come in," she said. "You need to listen to the citizens of this community who are telling you, 'No, we do not want this to change.' This is a residential area and needs to stay that way."
Neighbor Jane Fritz said at one point Dr. Steve Menke, senior partner at the clinic, provided her a proposed image of what the clinic's expansion could look like, occupying at most 2 acres of land.
"You do the math," Fritz said. "How is it going to fit there?"
Councilman J.R. Richards said the council must do what's best "for the greatest number of citizens — not what's popular, what's best." Richards was the sole vote against overriding the mayor's veto.
Councilman Jeremy Weller said while some believe he doesn't listen to the public, that's not the case.
"Unfortunately I've sided with the side you're not on, so it appears I'm maybe not listening to you," Weller said. "We've listened three times, and this is the fourth meeting about this. There's not that much new information that could be presented that we haven't heard in the previous three meetings."
Despite the persistent protest by neighbors at council meetings, Councilman Brian Morgan said he's heard "overwhelming support" for the rezoning through phone calls from the general public.
— To follow reporter Chelsea Davis on Twitter, head to @ChelseaLeeDavis.