Panel: Give proposed Edgewood complex another shot

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CEDAR RAPIDS — A Cedar Rapids panel on Thursday gave the first signal a previously rejected affordable housing complex will get a second look, saying the plans had substantially changed.

The City Planning Commission voted 7-1 to recommend approval of a “successive application” to reconsider rezoning land at 1200 Edgewood Rd. NW for the 45-unit Crestwood Ridge Apartments.

“I think there are substantial changes that have been made,” commission member Lisa Peloquin said, noting a bigger playground area, sidewalks at the developer’s expense and an underground stormwater cistern. “There’s a huge chunk of changes.”

CommonBond Communities, a nonprofit affordable housing developer based in St. Paul, Minn., presented a plan with what they called eight changes since the rezoning request was denied, although it noted the specs of the apartment building itself are the same.

The project has the backing of $8 million in federal tax credits because five units are set aside for permanent housing for the chronically homeless. Those credits could expire at the end of June if sufficient progress is not made.

CommonBond representatives said they would commit to bankroll changes, including a new right-hand turn lane on Edgewood. In total, they’d absorb an estimated $200,000 in costs, Marty Stoll, a Shuttleworth & Ingersoll attorney representing CommonBond, said at the meeting.

Neighbors, who’ve long resisted the project, pointed out a number of the changes weren’t changes at all and were part of the proposal the City Council rejected in October 2016.

“This is the very same project that’s the very same size and density on the very same tiny lot, on the very same dangerous corner,” said Bill Divis, who lives on Crestwood Drive NW. “There’s nothing CommonBond can do to change it. ... This is a last-ditch effort to retain the $8 million CommonBond was awarded.”

A substantial change is a prerequisite to getting approval of a successive application, which is a rarely used process that allows a rezoning request to be reconsidered within one year of being rejected by City Council.

The commission vote is somewhat anticlimactic, though, because ultimately the Cedar Rapids City Council has to decide whether CommonBond gets another shot at rezoning for Crestwood Ridge. That could be decided at the April 11 City Council meeting.

And, even if the City Council grants the successive application, it just means the rezoning request gets another chance, not that the project is approved.

CommonBond would have to resubmit its rezoning request, which would then go before the City Planning Commission again.

The commission recommended against rezoning in April 2016. Another round of public hearings would be held, and the city council also would get another say on the rezoning.

Justin Eilers, of CommonBond, said they’d move quickly to request the rezoning should the City Council give them the opportunity, and they’d plan a neighborhood meeting to reintroduce the plans.

Neighbors such as Gary Butte were disappointed by the Thursday decision and said they will continue to push back.

A petition of opposition with 250 signatures collected over several days has already been submitted. Last fall, a petition with 550 signatures was submitted.

Resistance from property owners near the complex triggered a supermajority requirement for the city council, and that is likely to happen again. A supermajority means 75 percent of the nine-member council would have to back the rezoning for it to go through.

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