City denies apartment zoning request
By SCOTT AUST
Despite a long acknowledged need for additional housing, the Garden City Commission decided this week that a proposed new apartment development had too many obstacles to justify a zoning change.
The commission voted 4-0 Tuesday to deny a request to rezone two properties totaling a little more than two acres in the 2700 block of North 10th Street from medium industrial to multi-family residential district.
Due to an ownership interest, Mayor Dan Fankhauser did not vote on the issue and left the room while the matter was discussed.
Local developer John Chappel planned to buy the property, had the rezoning been approved, in order to build six five-unit apartment buildings on the land, which is just north of Mary Street on the west side of 10th Street.
Though it's zoned industrial, Chappel said the city's comprehensive plan shows the land as either single family or multi-family residential. Utilities are nearby, and the project could have started almost immediately, he said.
"The city benefits from this happening for at least 75 years. These buildings would last at least that long," Chappel said.
The property is surrounded by industrial and commercial property, though there is a group of mobile homes to the north and northwest that are zoned residential. Several business owners in the neighborhood opposed the rezoning due to concerns about truck traffic and the potential for accidents involving children living in the apartments.
Chappel said signs could be put up to make drivers aware of children or pedestrians. He also planned to include a 26-by-140 foot play area at the site surrounded by a cedar fence.
"I know there were concerns about noise and that sort of thing, but there's already residential in that area, so the noise factor couldn't affect this deal and not affect the other. The traffic, as we all know, there's lots of apartments on Mary Street. This would be substantially less traffic than what Mary Street has along it," he said.
Another argument made against his project, Chappel said, is that there are other rental properties already being built elsewhere in town.
"All those rentals are in the $1,200 range, unless you're getting assistance. These out here are in the $600 range, which is half that amount, and that meets a lot more of the needs of people that are coming into Garden City," he said. "This was the only piece of property in Garden City I could find that I could have this price range and make it cash flow."
The planning commission reviewed the zoning change twice and recommended denial both times.
Steve Burgess, who would have ultimately owned the rentals after construction, talked about the serious need for more rental property in Garden City, especially with some of the business expansions planned by local companies such as Tyson Fresh Meats and Palmer Manufacturing. Burgess questioned where those new workers will live.
"I have 360 rentals. I have two vacancies today. That should tell you the seriousness of this issue," Burgess said. "Now, I look in the newspaper, there are three ads of people looking to rent something. I can remember when there was two columns of rentals in the paper. We are in desperate need for more rental housing."
Franz Seba, who owns the property at 809 W. Mary St., which he leases to Norder Supply, Inc., an agriculture business, asked the commission to not allow the zoning change due to the volume of traffic nearby.
"They have semis in there, and fifth-wheel trailers bringing supplies in and out all the time. They're a pretty busy place," he said.
Ken Green, owner of Mid America Millwright, 2720 N. 11th St., said he has no doubt that the city has a housing shortage, and that the project is "shovel-ready." But the problem is the land is not zoned to allow apartments, and it should stay that way.
Green said he's been in business since 1987 and has had concerns for years about truck traffic and pedestrians from the existing mobile homes.
"We had an incident with one of my trucks at a corner where we almost backed over a child," Green said. "That's not an ideal situation."
Green said there are trucks and vans going in and out of the car wash south of the proposed apartments, and many times trucks hauling wind generating equipment that pull into the Dusty Trail Inn choose to use 10th or 11th street to leave the hotel because they can't turn around in the hotel parking lot.
"That's not counting UPS, that's not counting my trucks and cranes, and that's not counting UniFirst. Just because it's shovel ready for apartments, I can't see that you'd stick them here," he said.
Commissioners agreed that the site isn't ideal for apartments.
Commissioner Janet Doll opposed the rezoning, citing the industrial/commercial nature of the area, the opposition of surrounding neighbors and the fact that the planning commission looked at the issue twice and recommended denial.
Commissioner Chris Law agreed.
"I personally think the project could work. But there are two or three things to test: What did your citizen advisory council determine, and what do the existing people say? I think the existing neighborhood has some expectation of protection," he said.