Iowa City City Council gives first pass to Comprehensive Plan Amendment for South District

The Iowa City City Council unanimously voted to pass the plan during its Oct. 5 meeting.


Jeff Sigmund

Iowa City City Council members meet in the Senior Center on Tuesday, Oct. 5, 2021.

Emily Delgado, News Reporter

Iowa City is planning to create affordable housing and walkable areas in the South District with a new form-based zoning plan. 

The Iowa City City Council passed the first consideration of the Comprehensive Plan Amendment for the city’s South District at its meeting Tuesday. The plan calls for Form-Based Zoning, where zoning is based on certainty and predictability. 

The main aspect about the plan that the council was interested in pursuing was the “missing middle” housing in the South District. In addition, it will also add a 25 percent density to the district. 

The “missing middle” housing includes multi-family housing like multiplexes, cottage courts and townhomes. 

“It’s the missing middle, it’s the integration of a neighborhood where you’ll have that multifamily, single units. Commercial Space public space, some public parks. That is super exciting, and I like the idea that in each block we have two different types of buildings,” Iowa City Mayor Bruce Teague said. 

Developers also say that the plan will lead to affordable housing in the district. Affordable housing is a part of Title 14 and zoning code text amendment. 

The zoning plan includes additional standards for affordable housing, said Tony Perez, director of form-based zoning for Opticos Design, the firm the city contracted with to help develop the plan. 

“​With regards to these standards that we are talking about renter occupied housing — households making less than 60 percent of the area median income, they could qualify for some of these homes with rent restrictions.” 

During public comment, residents were generally in favor of the plan, but took issue with certain aspects. 

Residents of Sand Hill Estates, a subdivision in the South District, were concerned about their homes being too close to the proposed T4, or highest density, zone. Joleah Shaw, a member of the Board of Directors for the Sand Hill Estates Homeowners Association, asked the council to move the area close to the Sand Hill Estates to a less dense designation.

“We’re asking that the council recommend changing that to a T3, which would allow a smoother transition to the bigger buildings and more densely populated buildings,” Shaw said.

The actual construction of the plan is planned to take decades. 

Mayor Pro-Tem Mazahir Salih said that she is glad that she will get to vote on this plan before she leaves council as she is a big fan of the plan. 

Across the council, members expressed their positive feelings about this plan and how it will help the South District. 

“I hope it doesn’t take decades and decades to accomplish it all because they[South District]  really could use that boost,” Councilor Pauline Taylor said.