Fate of Kinnick Stadium-like house rests with Iowa Board of Adjustment
Appeals to five-member board, overturning city action rare, official says
IOWA CITY — The fate of a home designed to look like the Iowa Hawkeyes football stadium now rests in the hands of five Iowa City residents appointed to “act like judges” in determining whether construction can begin.
Tim Weitzel, Larry Baker, T. Gene Chrischilles, Constance Goeb and Becky Soglin serve on the Iowa City Board of Adjustment, which meets at 5:15 p.m. on Aug. 10 to consider an appeal from residents who say city officials made errors in approving site plans and issuing a building permit for the Kinnick-like home that Frederic Reed Carlson proposes to build at 101 Lusk Ave.
The appeal triggered a stop work order on Wednesday, one day after the building permit was granted.
The Gazette was unable to reach any of the board members for comment, but Sarah Waltz, the board’s secretary for the past 10 years, said they typically refrain from speaking with the public, the media and each other in order to remain impartial and limit discussion before the hearing.
The Aug. 10 meeting takes place at City Hall, 410 E. Washington St.
Waltz said appeals of this nature are uncommon, and it’s rare for the Board of Adjustment to overturn decisions by city officials, though it has happened before. During her time with the board, she said members have considered an appeal about once every two years.
Generally, the appeals have something to do with special exemptions for buildings or variances to city code, Waltz said. The board also may hear appeals of administrative decisions. In any case, board members examine city code and determine if it has been violated in any way.
Although members of the Board of Adjustment are appointed by the Iowa City Council, the city council cannot overturn the board’s decision. The ruling is binding unless appealed and overturned in District Court.
In that way, members of the Board of Adjustment “act like judges,” according to city documents.
Residents in the in the Manville Heights neighborhood, near where Carlson has proposed building the 7,400-square-foot home, expressed concern during a recent city council meeting about the house’s intended use, saying it might be used for large gatherings — especially during football season.
Designs show the house’s top level includes spaces like a traditional home, including bedrooms and a kitchen. However, the ground floor plans include an industrial kitchen, a courtyard, a basketball court and men’s and women’s bathrooms.
Carlson, a Decorah native, said in a previous interview with The Gazette that he plans to use it as a second home, and he signed an affidavit explaining the intended use of the home. He said it might be used for occasional family gatherings, but is likely to be vacant much of the year.
The Gazette was unable to reach Carlson on Thursday.
James Larew, the attorney who filed the appeal on behalf of the Neighbors of Manville Heights Association and some individual Iowa City residents, has said city officials made three errors when considering the Kinnick-like house. First, the home is mischaracterized as a single-family home, he said, which means it would not fit into how the neighborhood is zoned. The second and third errors, he said, were approving the house’s site plan and issuing a building permit because neither meet all the required city codes.
John Yapp, Iowa City’s development services coordinator, declined to respond to the appeal’s claims.
“Now that we have an appeal application, there will be a public hearing in front of the Board of Adjustment and that’s when it will be discussed,” he said, adding city officials are to prepare a staff report summarizing all of the issues outlined in the appeal.
According to city code, notice of the Aug. 10 meeting must be posted in a newspaper of general circulation at least seven days before the hearing and also at the proposed building site.
All residents within 300 feet of the proposed home should also receive notice by mail.