By Anne Marie Amacher
The Catholic Messenger
DAVENPORT – A proposed sports complex for St. Ambrose University now moves to the Davenport City Council after the city’s Planning and Zoning Commission recommended rezoning property at St. Vincent Center complex. The commission voted 7-3 in favor of rezoning at its May 20 meeting.
Commissioners, who had reviewed a 300-page-plus report on the proposal, reminded those in attendance that this was not a public hearing.
The university is sought to rezone approximately 31 acres of land from R-4 residential to PID (planned institutional district). City staff recommended that the commission accept the proposal subject to 17 conditions, including: obtaining an easement with the adjacent property owner to the west to allow for adequate emergency access to the site, creating a tree preservation plan with the city’s forestry division, providing shuttles between the main campus and sports complex when parking lot limits are full and hiring police officers for traffic control.
Scott Koops, AIC Planner II with the city, said when looking at St. Ambrose’s plan, city staff evaluated whether it’s appropriate and fits the city’s comprehensive plan. It does, he said. It also meets PID requirements. St. Ambrose had submitted the plan and narrative along with necessary studies and additional studies that were not required.
Regarding a question raised at the May 6 public hearing: could St. Ambrose select to rezone just 31 of the 40 acres on the site? The city’s legal department concluded that St. Ambrose’s PID met the comprehensive plan requirements.
Commissioner Robert Martin asked if the stormwater underground retention planned at the complex would make flooding issues worse in the Garfield area and Duck Creek. Brian Stineman, natural resources manager for the city, said the St. Ambrose project would not create problems for the two areas and that the proposal is above and beyond what the city requires.
Commissioner Sue Lammers asked about monitoring Ripley Street after games. Mike Poster, the university’s vice president for finance, said yes, some monitoring could be set up for Ripley as well as Gaines.
Lammers said St. Ambrose has made positive impacts in the neighborhood over the years, but some negative issues have not been resolved. Those include parking problems and instability concerning rental housing. She said most students will do what is asked, but “you know some will still park where they are not supposed to.” She believes a solution is possible, but doesn’t know what it is.
She expressed disappointment that two key neighbors have been virtually silent through the whole process: the Sisters of Humility and residents at St. Vincent Center. “We only heard from one monsignor.”
Commissioner Scott Kelling said the rezoning proposal “has not been easy for us as a commission and it has been very educational and a learning experience.” He expressed three major reservations about the project. One pertains to the intent of the PID because it does not include the entire 40 acres. He noted that the legal department said it conforms to the letter of the law, but the “jigsaw layout” concerned him. “What is the intended use for those other areas?” Regarding traffic, he thinks it is unwise to have a single drive for incoming and outgoing traffic. His third concern pertains to storm water and property values. He pointed out that the city has waited too long to address a “defective (water/sewer) system.” He thinks runoff from the complex will contribute to additional issues for the neighbors.
Commissioner Cathy Cartee said she was relying on the experts who provided the studies addressing various issues. She criticized the city for not addressing the water/sewer problems in the neighborhood, but noted, “This is not St. Ambrose’s fault.” Cartee encouraged the neighbors to continue their fight with the city to address those problems.
Voting for the rezoning were Cartee, Jim Connell, Larry d’Autremont, John Gere, Martin, Tonya Martinez and David Tallman. Opposing were Paul Elgation, Kelling and Lammers. Chairman Robert Inghram did not vote.
The next step for the project is a public hearing before the city council, scheduled for June 4 at 5:30 p.m. The site for the meeting is listed as city hall, but that could change if a larger crowd is anticipated.