By Anne Marie Amacher
The Catholic Messenger
DAVENPORT – Arguments for and against rezoning residential property to allow construction of a sports complex for St. Ambrose University resumed at a public hearing June 4, with several more meetings to follow. The proposed complex would be located on property owned by St. Ambrose north of campus at St. Vincent Center, along West Central Park Avenue.
Davenport’s Community Development Committee hosted the June 4 hearing in an overflowing city council chamber at city hall. The fire marshal capped attendance in the standing-room-only chamber. Televisions were set up in the hall for the overflow crowd. Additional room at the police department was not needed.
Alderman Bill Boom, who chairs the Community Development Committee, gave St. Ambrose and its opposition 15 minutes each for an opening statement and asked everyone else to limit comments to five minutes each during the public comment period.
Mike Bauer, vice chair of St. Ambrose’s board and member of the building and grounds committee, said the complex would benefit not only the university and Assumption High School, but the whole community. “This is essential to the future of St. Ambrose.”
Andy Craig, Assumption’s president, spoke on behalf of his board of directors in support of the project. Mike Poster, the university’s vice president of finance, said St. Ambrose has worked with neighbors, made changes to plans and meets or exceeds city requirements. Ed Rogalski, the university’s past president, said St. Ambrose has worked with the public school district since losing its “home field advantage” decades ago at what is now Modern Woodman Park in downtown Davenport. “It’s simple thinking – home advantage.”
Representing the opposition in an opening statement was Jim Welch of the Neighborhood Relations Council (NRC) and a neighbor across the street from Assumption.
He said St. Ambrose’s Planned Institutional District (PID) plan has deficiencies, is not comprehensive and that the university should be required to include all 40 acres it owns in the area – not just the 31 acres it seeks to rezone from R-4 residential to PID. R-4 is moderate density dwelling, which includes single-family detached and duplexe homes.
“The plan lacks vision,” he said.
The meeting opened up for public comment, with far more opponents than supporters expressing opinions. Opponents addressed traffic concerns, storm water and sewer issues, noise, construction, crime, pedestrian safety and land values among other topics.
Supporters explained how storm water detention would work, told of the number of meetings held with neighbors, described how tailgating would work, explained existing use of the site and made a pitch for a true home-field advantage.
Following the two-and-a-half-hour hearing, council members asked questions of both St. Ambrose and city staffers concerning issues addressed during the public hearing. Much focused on the PID boundaries, storm water and tailgating.
Regarding the boundaries, Tom Warner, corporation council, said he felt St. Ambrose could determine the size of the PID, but noted that the university can’t come back to add to the PID.
Most aldermen asked about the storm water and sewer issues that have plagued the north end area of the property for decades. Public Works Director Mike Clarke said the freeing up of new West Side Diversion Tunnel lines could take some of the flow from the neighborhood. A line goes under the proposed soccer fields and the university and city could work together to help alleviate flooding issues. The city of Davenport is responsible for the costs of the water and sewer lines. St. Ambrose is responsible for paying for the water detention plan.
“Could it be guaranteed?” someone asked. Nothing can be guaranteed, Clarke noted.
Alderman Jason Gordon had concerns about tailgating. St. Ambrose’s Poster said tailgating would be allowed two hours before and one hour after games in the south two rows of the parking lot. He would bring a written proposal to the next meeting.
Several reports were requested of city officials for the next meeting, scheduled for June 11 (after press time). Other meetings are planned for June 18, 25, July 2 and 9, when a vote could be taken.