Opponents of a 20-story building project proposed for the edge of downtown will have to wait until the next planning and zoning meeting to learn if the commission will recommend its rezoning proposal, which would limit the building's height, to the city council.
The Iowa City Planning and Zoning commission voted to defer their decision on whether to recommend the city council re-zone the piece of land to CB-5, which would cap the building's height at 75 feet, after nearly two hours of public comment.
Opponents of the building were hoping to stop the project from progressing by preventing the property — which is currently zoned for public use — from being re-zoned to what is called CB-10, which has no height limitation, to accommodate the height of the building.
Leaders of the opposition group, the Iowa Coalition Against the Shadow, argue that the 20-story structure would not fit in with the size of other structures in the area. They also argue that CB-5 zoning would better-fulfill the city's comprehensive plan, which calls for proper transition between the intensity of downtown development and surrounding residential neighborhoods.
"If this building is all it's cracked up to be, it's not going to be this singular density black hole that's going to suck development desire out of the surrounding blocks, it's going to be a magnet for other density," said Iowa Coalition Against the Shadow Co-founder Jon Fogarty. "That's why it belongs in a different part of the city."
The commission also heard from members of Trinity Episcopal Church — which neighbors the land to the west and opposes the project — along with several community members and downtown business owners. Many opponents argued the development doesn't fit in with the feel and culture of Iowa City, while proponents said the development would ensure the lasting economic vitality of downtown.
"Anything that brings more people downtown is great for downtown business," said George Etre, owner of Takanami, 219 Iowa Ave. "I support more downtown entertainment options and things included in the downtown development. I was born and raised in Iowa City like many people here and I have seen downtown change and grow … I can tell you for the first time in a long time it is becoming exciting and I think projects like this only help with the vibrancy of downtown."Because the Commission only votes to make recommendations to the City Council — who has already voted to enter negotiations with Moen's team to start the project — the council has the final say on zoning issues. Both zonings would allow a variety of retail, office, personal service and residential uses. None of the final proposals for the property were under 75 feet in height. The next planning and zoning meeting is scheduled for April 18.