Homeowners, commercial owners weigh in about rezoning

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Heated comments from local landlords marked Tuesday night’s City Commission meeting. Emotional reactions accompanied comments made about a possible rezoning of residential areas east of City Park, to the point of North Juliette Avenue. The commission voted to pass the first reading of the measure 5-0.

The current zoning allows for mulit-residential housing, such as duplexes and apartments. The new zoning proposal would change it to a single-family residential district.

At issue is the possible effects the rezoning might have on property values.

David Zoeller, owner of rental property in the affected area, said he opposes the rezoning.

“If it (zoning) is changed, my property values are going to go down and we won’t be able to sell the property for a price that I want to get out of it,” Zoeller said.

Zoeller brought up a petition that was signed by several commercial property owners, but rejected by the city due to a number of legalities that prevented its acceptance.

The petition sought for a supermajority of the board to be able to pass the measure, requiring four out of five votes to pass instead of three.

Zoeller said he wanted the commission to consider reason rather than the law and accept the petition.

“I understand the law, but you have to use logic,” he said.

Mel Borst, homeowner in the affected area, said he approves of the rezoning due to the historic significance of the neighborhood and the stability the measure would provide.

“We have noticed accelerated deterioration of its housing stock due to lack of responsible property owners,” Borst said in reference to commercial properties. “Too many minimally managed rentals have resulted in driving enough homeowners away that stable living and economic conditions in the neighborhood are now threatened.”

Borst said multi-residential neighborhoods have a number of negative effects.

“An unstable neighborhood environment discourages property ownership, maintenance and improvements,” Borst said. “Risk of crime increases and a once-stable Manhattan neighborhood becomes blighted.”

Public commentary on the issue lasted more than two and a half hours. Commissioners noted the concerns of the commercial property owners before voting to pass the first reading.

“I’ve always been in favor of property rights,” Commissioner Wynn Butler said. “I don’t like the idea of rezoning anything when all the properties around it don’t agree.”

Although he supported rights of property owners, Butler said he also supported the rezoning effort as part of the city’s comprehensive plan to increase student housing closer to the campus.

“The idea is that eventually, a lot more students will be in that area,” Butler said. “And then it was to downsize some other areas, to compensate for that.”

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