The Daily Iowan

IC councilors vote to approve housing ordinance’s first consideration


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The Iowa City city councilors are moving forward with rezoning plan targeting high-density housing and "student" apartments.

The councilors approved the first consideration of a proposed zoning ordinance Tuesday on a 5-1 vote. The proposal would change the definition of "household" in the City Code, limiting the number of unrelated persons who can live together in the University Impact Area — zones surround the University of Iowa campus — to a maximum of three.

Several councilors said they are not anti-student or anti-developer — they just want to see a balance among household sizes in Iowa City.

"We’ve had a significant number of four- and five-bedroom apartment buildings in this area," Councilor Susan Mims said. "To continue to allow that kind of development puts those ‘nearside’ neighborhoods in a position of a tipping point … and the residents are in jeopardy of not having enough balance that they even want to stay in those neighborhoods."

Councilor Terry Dickens was the only one to oppose the ordinance Tuesday. He said he would like to have seen a more traditional process for this ordinance.

"I didn’t like the moratorium," he said. "I don’t disagree with all these items, but I didn’t like the way it was done. The process should’ve gone through the entire procedure that it needs to."

The Planning and Zoning Committee typically reviews zoning items before placed before the council. However, council bypassed the commmittee’s recommendations and set a public hearing. The decision placed a 60-day moratorium on all developments that could be affected by the zoning amendments.

Councilors expressed little concern about whether the ordinance should be approved, but questioned how it would be enforced for grandfathered units and how the change would affect existing single-family units.

"There’s been a concern that if we enact these ordinances that it will create a marketing incentive for developers to buy and convert many of the existing single family units …" said City Councilor Jim Throgmorton.

Karen Howard, an associate planner with the Iowa City Planning Department, said the city has no plans to amortize single-family units.

"It’s not a serious conversation we’re talking about," she said.

Mims expressed concern about grandfathered units. She asked if the city would have additional power to revoke permits for grandfathered units if there are consistent complaints of parties and nuisances from nonconforming properties.

"If you lose your rental permit for some reason … then you lose that grandfathered [standing]," City Attorney Eleanor Dilkes said in response. "You’re not meeting the housing standards."

An ordinance needs three readings, and councilors will vote on the second consideration at its next meeting April 17.

Councilors also voted during its meeting to set a public hearing on the remaining rezoning proposals. One amendment would establish three as the maximum number of bedrooms allowed in a multifamily housing unit in multifamily zones.

The other would require at least one parking space for each bedroom for multifamily housing units in the University Impact Area, where illegal parking has been a concern for the city.

A public hearing for these amendments will be held April 17.