City council denies U.S. 56 property rezoning request
Despite a lengthy discussion with Baldwin City Planning Commission members and a plea from property owner Greg Wright, the Baldwin City Council denied the zoning change that’s been on the table for months.
The topic of rezoning the property at 913 Ames St. was back at Monday’s meeting. After an hour of discussion, the council vote down a rezoning request from commercial to single-family residential for a property at 912 Ames St. Council Members Tom Farmer and Ted Brecheisen voted for the rezoning, while Councilmembers Bonnie Plumber, Mike Magers and Robin Bayer voted no.
“I totally agree with Mike (Magers),” Council Member Bonnie Plumberg said. “This is an individual spot change.”
The three council members who carried the day said they didn’t want to deviate from the city’s comprehensive plan to keep commercial zoning along U.S. Highway 56. However, Brecheisen and Farmer were OK with changing the comprehensive plan.
“It’s supposed to be flexible,” Farmer said. “It’s a guideline. If someone buys the property in a number of years and wants to change it back to commercial, it’s not that big of a deal.”
Brecheisen agreed and it took it a step further.
“I truly feel that comprehensive plans are changed all of the time,” he said. “They aren’t written in stone. They are changed. It will not harm the city of Baldwin to change the zoning of that property. I will go to my grave believing that.”
Before the vote, Wright reminded the council the planning commission twice recommended the rezoning of the property.
“All I’m asking for is my home’s zoning to be changed to what it was before Baldwin decided to put in the zoning laws,” Wright said. “It was built as a home. The whole half-block is all homes. It’s always been homes; nothing else. You couldn't put a business on my lot and have the parking that is required by the city.”
During his address to the council, Wright referenced an article in Baldwin City’s zoning law, which would limit his options if he had to replace his home.
“Let’s say that if my house was destroyed by fire or a tornado came through town and took out everything along the highway, Mr. Magers your property could be rebuilt,” Wright said. “Mayor Wagner, your property could be rebuilt. Guess what, I’m homeless. My parents are homeless. We can’t build our houses back. The property would sit vacant, and we couldn't rebuild our houses back, because of this article. Is that fair?
“This is Baldwin. This is small-town USA. It’s about people. It’s about people helping people and helping their neighbors.”
Planning commissioners Ted Madl, Mike Grosdidier and Richard Dechant — who attended the meeting with fellow planning commission member Ted Madl, were said they didn’t understand the entire issue when it first came before them, but they would keep the property zoned commercial.
On the other hand Madl would change the zoning of the property. He said the planning commission could divert from the city’s comprehensive plan at anytime.
“What’s the major difference of changing it one way or the other?” Madl asked Bayer. “Is there going to be a big turmoil? What if three people want to change? Is that major? We’re still Baldwin City. I’ve been here my whole life, and I’m still pretty strong for the landowner.”
After the vote, the council directed the staff to re-evaluate the planning and zoning on the U.S. 56 corridor. The city staff and the planning commission will be looking into the lots between Ninth and 10th streets, as well as the other houses that sit along the highway.
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