Developer Peter Gardner bought the vacant house at 2247-2249 O.C. Haley (near Jackson Avenue) from a neighbor with the idea to convert it into a small commercial office or shopfront, he said in a hearing before the City Planning Commission on Tuesday. He might even move his own office into it from two doors down, and it is already surrounded by other commercial uses, he noted.
“A lot of nonprofits or small office users would want a presence on a commercial street,” Gardner said. “I just thought it would be good for O.C. Haley.”
The zoning was commercial beginning in 1929, but changed to multi-family residential in 1970, so Gardner needed the city’s permission to return it to commercial zoning (specifically a neighborhood business district). City planners in their report acknowledged that the Master Plan calls for mixed uses along O.C. Haley Boulevard, but said there are multiple zoning options that may result from that. They are still reviewing public comments on the major new Comprehensive Zoning Ordinance, and the final decision on the corridor by the City Council could be different yet, said Stephen Kroll of the City Planning staff.
“We don’t want to presume we’re going to do one thing and end up with something else,” Kroll said.
But waiting, Gardner said, will incur the ire of the city Code Enforcement office because the house is currently blighted. It would be unnecessarily expensive to renovate it now back into a home then renovate it again to commercial standards after the new Comprehensive Zoning Ordinance is adopted, but meanwhile Code Enforcement won’t be willing to wait until the City Council gets around to passing that ordinance.
“They’ll say, ‘That’s not our problem. You have to put the property in use,’” Gardner said.
No one spoke in opposition to the rezoning, but the commission members largely sided with the technical arguments in the staff report. Commissioner Robert Steeg asked a few questions about the Gardner’s options if the property isn’t rezoned commercial in the upcoming Comprehensive Zoning Ordinance, and Commissioner Craig Mitchell noted that this is only a recent acquisition, not an established business. They voted was 5-2 to deny Gardner’s request.
Gardner said after the meeting that he wasn’t surprised by the decision, and that he would appeal it to City Councilwoman LaToya Cantrell’s office, where it might be greeted with a broader vision.
“Nobody is against it,” Gardner said. “It’s purely a policy argument, versus a reality argument.”
During the meeting, the commission also voted in favor of an interim zoning district limiting a section of the Zion City area to residential zoning, in response to neighbors’ frustrations over a proposed concrete-batching plant there. To read our live coverage of the meeting, see below.