City groups disagree on zoning changes

Matt Kuhns

Although Ames officials have decided to rezone the city, the Planning and Zoning Department and Ames City Council disagree on how that should be done.

City council members discussed changes to city zoning plans for more than three hours at a special meeting on Tuesday night.

Planning and Housing Department staff presented proposed changes made to the city zoning map and zoning ordinances in response to citizen input. Throughout the presentation, council members provided suggestions for the planning staff.

Ray Anderson, planner for the department, explained changes made in the text of zoning ordinances.

One of the proposed changes, increasing the maximum lot area allowed in neighborhood commercial zones from 6,000 square feet to 20,000, received criticism from council members.

“Twenty-thousand square feet is more in line with what we find out there,” Anderson said.

Council member Sharon Wirth said the change would encourage larger lots in those areas.

“I want to be on record as saying I don’t like this,” Wirth said. “This proposal has taken away the flexibility we have with Planned Commercial.”

Council member John Parks agreed the proposed change needed adjustment.

“When we get close to an established neighborhood, we might want a smaller zone,” Parks said.

Another zoning ordinance change would prohibit social service providers in core urban medium-density zones, unless they are pre-existing.

Anderson said this would resolve current nonconformities in those areas while at the same time preserving the character of neighborhoods.

Following the staff presentation of proposed zoning changes, a public forum for discussion of those changes was held.

Several people alerted the council to concerns regarding the new zoning plans.

Jay Adams, owner of properties at 103 South Hyland Ave. and 2812 Lincoln Way, said those properties, which are to be zoned as residential low-density in the new plans, would be better zoned as residential medium-density.

Adams said he rents the houses on those properties as single-family homes, but the structures need rebuilding.

“I’d love to improve that property,” he said. Under a residential low-density zoning, however, Adams could only build more single-family dwellings, which he said would not make sense.

“An RL zoning would stagnate any development,” he said.

Council member Herman Quirmbach agreed with Adams.

“What you’ve got here is a recipe for blight,” Quirmbach said. “If you want that to improve, it’s going to have to have higher density [zoning assignment].”

The council also heard from people against expanding the hospital medical zone north of downtown Ames to Carroll Avenue and northwest to Kellogg Avenue and 10th Street.

“I am fundamentally opposed to zoning as hospital medical,” said Piper Wall, 912 Clark Ave. “It should only be rezoned if it’s requested to be rezoned [by property owners].”

Based on the council’s comments, Planning and Housing Department staff will re-assess some of the zoning changes and report to the council again at its Dec. 14 regular meeting.