By Suzi Nelson Wahoo Journal
WAHOO — After careful consideration and feedback to the planning commission, Wahoo City Council has given final approval to an ordinance that will allow ground floor apartments in specific areas of the downtown core.
The board approved Ordinance 2393 on June 14 at the monthly meeting held at the Wahoo Public Library. Two council members – Stuart Krejci and Patrick Nagle – voted no, while Karen Boop, Carl Warford, Chris Rappl and Ryan Ideus voted in favor of the order.
The ordinance will amend the city’s zoning regulations to allow ground-level residential dwellings in parts of the C-1 downtown zoning district.
The zoning change was proposed by Mike Sullivan of Lincolnshire Investments. Sullivan is a Wahoo native who is interested in development projects in the community.
Although he has not submitted an application for the construction of ground floor apartments, comments he has made in previous meetings indicate that he may be considering converting a former grocery store into residential units.
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Ordinance 2393 was approved for first reading by council on April 28, on the condition that it return to the planning commission for discussion with members of the council’s general committee present at the meeting.
The planning commission did not pass a motion to advance the original ordinance for approval at its April meeting. However, when the committee chair asked for a motion of denial, none was presented.
At the next planning commission meeting on May 5, they discussed the pros and cons of the proposed zoning change. But the committee did not vote on the issue because it was not on the agenda as a voting item.
The city council passed the ordinance on second reading on May 10. At the May 24 meeting, council voted to table the third and final reading and refer the matter to the planning commission for further study.
City Administrator Melissa Harrell told council she attended the planning commission meeting on June 2 as they discussed Ordinance 2393.
The commission has created a map of recommended designated areas for ground floor apartments in Ward C-1. The commission specifically excluded areas facing Chestnut, Maple, Broadway, Linden, Fifth and Sixth streets.
The planning commission also recommended allowing the ground floor apartments as a conditional use and not as a permitted use.
Nagle agreed to Sullivan’s proposal to the planning commission to add language requiring the developer to use 50% of the ground floor area for commercial purposes.
“He’s not trying to stop anybody, he’s just trying to salvage some of that publicity, because we’re limited in the amount of publicity we have,” Nagle said.
Sullivan said he was trying to add vocabulary that would ensure the city became “a bit of both” commercial and residential on these streets.
However, Warford said he believed such a requirement would tie the council’s hands.
“While we can sit on the sidelines so we don’t have to do this and approve projects on an individual basis, that makes more sense to me than putting other things in our way,” he said. declared.
Council also discussed the option of converting the ground floor residential property back to commercial, or vice versa.
Planning Commission member Bill Reece said the commission and council can review each plan on a case-by-case basis and impose any restrictions they wish to protect the intent of the ordinance.
“I think it comes down to trusting future councils and commissions to do their job,” he added.
Krejci said Elkhorn has two apartment buildings in his downtown area and he’s not a fan.
“It gives her a whole new look,” Krejci said. “I fight with it.”
Rappl praised the planning commission and council members who worked with Sullivan on the ordinance.
“I appreciate that they come up with something that we can look at today,” he said.
Warford moved the motion to approve the third and final reading of the ordinance using the changes recommended by the planning commission. Boop seconded the motion.
Suzi Nelson is the editor of Wahoo newspaper. Contact her by email at [email protected]