116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
CEDAR RAPIDS - Elected officials narrowly voted down Tuesday night the rezoning request needed for a hotly debated low-income housing project that would have devoted 10 percent of its units for the homeless.
A majority of the City Council supported CommonBond Communities, the developer behind the $9 million, 45-unit Crestwood Ridge Apartments, but it wasn't enough.
Because of neighborhood opposition, the rezoning required a three-quarter majority to pass.
'I don't think the CommonBond people have made a strong enough argument this is the location for the project,” Mayor Ron Corbett said. 'I think there's been a stronger argument that this isn't the location for the project.”
Corbett was among the three dissenting and ultimately prevailing votes. The final tally was 5-3, with Scott Overland, Ralph Russell, Pat Shey, Ann Poe and Susie Weinacht in favor of the rezoning, and Scott Olson and Justin Shields joining Corbett in opposition.
The matter to rezone 1200 Edgewood Rd. NW would have had to pass three considerations for approval, but with the rejection the issue is done, said Joe Mailander, the Cedar Rapids development services manager.
The project had the support of city staff, who said it met the city's land-use plans. But it had been voted down by the City Planning Commission in the spring.
The vote came after a nearly three-hour public hearing with 40-some speakers - roughly half in support and half against.
Brad Buck, the Cedar Rapids Community School District superintendent, was among those who spoke in favor.
Those favoring the project - virtually none of whom live in the neighborhood - contended it was the right thing to do for the community and those less fortunate.
'People say it's not about the homeless, but it's about the homeless,” Shey said in explaining his vote. 'It meets and exceeds all of our standards. I'm proud to support the project.”
The opposition was mighty, though. More than 550 people had signed a petition against the rezoning and more than 20 filed letters with the city.
Those opposed listed a litany of concerns, such as an already dangerous Crestwood Drive NW and Edgewood Road NW intersection, stormwater drainage and lack of sidewalks. Several said they were not opposed to low-income neighbors or the concept - but rather the project was just not right for there.
'I was pleased to hear the City Council listened and respected both sides of the issue, and the vote favored the neighbors who would daily be impacted going forward,” said Sarah Crandall, 32, who lives near the proposed site.
City staff and some council members noted this part of the process is preliminary, and many of the concerns raised would have been addressed by a final design. But the argument did not win the day.
'I see what happens with this later and we never get to later,” Shields said. 'Or we charge people what they'd call a huge amount of money to fix things later they weren't expecting. I am not convinced we are doing people a favor by moving people into the neighborhood.”
With the defeat, CommonBond Communities, a non-profit based in St. Paul, Minn., that maintains dozens of low-income housing locations around the Midwest, will have to return an $8 million federal tax credit through the Iowa Finance Authority.
The credit - which was issued for permanent housing for the chronically homeless as well as support services from Willis Dady Emergency Shelter - is site specific, said Justin Eilers of CommonBond.
'We are disappointed,” Eilers said.