Archive for Thursday, December 23, 2010

City council denies U.S. 56 property rezoning request

December 23, 2010

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.


loosecaboose 7 years, 6 months ago

If change cannot be made, how come there are two duplexes on Crimson?


Stacy Napier 7 years, 6 months ago

I still don't understand why this city has a planning commission. The city council doesn't respect their opinion and not just on this issue. They should just do away with it.


oscar 7 years, 6 months ago

Good point. City councilmen think they are bnetter than planning comm since they got elected which is total joke since most people dont even vote. How does a minority get to be prez? majority doesnt vote, that is how


BaldwinDad 7 years, 6 months ago

I agree, not sure what the point of telling someone that owns the property what they can do with it. I mean where the landowners neighbors OK with it?? If your city planning commission is OK with it then why wouldn't the City Council go along with it. Also is there not a grandfather clause in most of these zoning laws. If it was a home to begin with then you should be allowed to rebuild it as a home.


Stacy Napier 7 years, 6 months ago

He wouldn't be able to rebuild it because he would need a buildling permit to build a new home it if was totally destroyed. one couldn't be given to him for a house in that zoning.

This a huge joke. Make it residental and if a builder wants to buy several homes there and put in a business than all he would have to do is request a change and in one council meeting you could change it back.

It is common sense!


robinbayer 7 years, 6 months ago

The following are some additional facts that may assist the reader in understanding the nature of the request by the property owner and the eventual decision of the City Council:

1.) The property at 913 Ames has been zoned commercial since 1969.

2.) The property is classified as “non-conforming”, but is still able to be used for a residence.

3.) The property may be sold to another party who may continue to use it as a residence.

4.) The property owner purchased his property in 1980 and has owned it since.

5.) In 2007 and 2008 the Planning Commission produced the latest Comprehensive Plan for the City, utilizing a firm that specialized in long-term planning. The cost of the Plan was $50,000.

6.) The Plan established the zoning designations for the City. In that plan, the property (and those like it along U.S. 56/Ames St.) continued to carry a commercial zoning designation.

7.) In 2008 the Planning Commission ratified the Comprehensive Plan with a vote of 7-0, which advanced it to the City Council for adoption.

8.) Later in 2008 the Baldwin City Council adopted the Comprehensive Plan on a vote of 5-0.

9.) In 2008 and 2009 the Planning Commission produced an update to the Zoning and Subdivision Codes for the City, again using a firm that specialized in this type of activity.

10.) The Zoning and Subdivision regulations included by reference the previously-adopted Comprehensive Plan.

11.) In late 2009 the Planning Commission ratified the updated Zoning and Subdivision Regulations with a vote of 7-0, which advanced them to the City Council for adoption.

12.) In April 2010 the City Council adopted the updates to the Zoning Regulations as recommended by the Planning Commission in a 5-0 vote.

13.) In April 2010 the City Council adopted the updates to the Subdivision Regulations as recommended by the Planning Commission in a 3-2 vote (Councilmembers Brecheisen and Farmer were opposed)

14.) Beginning in August 2010 the property owner petitioned for a change of designation for his property from commercial to residential.

15.) When the property owner appeared before the City Council in October 2010 he stated that his reason for requesting the change was to allow a potential purchaser of his property to qualify for more favorable loan terms with a lender.


BaldwinDad 7 years, 6 months ago why not let him change??

I mean it's not like we have people beating down the doors at city hall to move here. You would think the City Council would want to be as consumer friendly as possible. Also there doesn't seem to be a huge effort for business to move here either. Being known as a city that likes to work with it's landowners could help that. I understand that he bought the property knowing it, but if the fact that he is trying to sell it now(something which generates money for the city) and needs help why would you not let him rezone the property.

Correct me if I'm wrong, but the two worse case scenarios are if a business owner buys it they would have to go back to the city to have it rezoned as commercial or if a person buys it as residential and decides to build a newer home on it then it still would be used as it currently is. Either way more income would be generated for the City.


sparky 7 years, 6 months ago

Good Luck with that one BaldwinDad. I was trying to build a house a few years back (money maker for the city), but I got so tired of arguing with Tina and the city that I finally gave up. All I wanted was to build a house on the outskirts of town, and was told I would need to spend tens of thousands of dollars on roads, cul-de-sack, sewer lines, water lines,..... I offered to split the costs with the city because I wanted the house, but they wouldn't budge. One house, all by itself, no other houses on the block (and would stay that way because I owned the entire block). I offered to match the surrounding roads and was told it wasn't good enough, they were grandfathered in and any new roads had to be bigger and better even if it was for a single house.


robinbayer 7 years, 6 months ago


I voted against the request for a zoning change for the property because I believe it is very bad policy for government officials at any level to make changes to laws or ordinances for the purpose of conferring financial advantage to a specific individual.

As a practical matter, granting a “spot” zoning request can cause enormous problems, especially when the reason for granting the request was for the financial benefit of the property holder. The most obvious problem is that the City would set itself up for a continual stream of zoning request changes because other property owners would argue that they could financially benefit from a zoning change. If the City were to deny such a request (for whatever reason), the requestor could quite easily challenge the denial in court, asserting that the ruling was “arbitrary and capricious”, given that a similar request was granted.

It is hard to see how this type of challenge would be limited only to a move from commercial to residential. If an owner of a property that was zoned residential received an offer from a business that required the residential property be changed to commercial, the very same argument could be made. One could easily extend this logic to a business in a commercial district that wanted to sell its property to a heavy industrial concern.

Significant problems are universally encountered at boundaries between properties with different zoning, such as environmental nuisance (noise, smells, lighting, runoff), increased traffic, and aesthetic problems leading to reduction of property values for the more restrictively zoned properties (i.e. residential). A comprehensive approach to zoning (as offered by the Comprehensive Plan) seeks to minimize the boundaries between the different zoning classifications. So when the majority of properties bordering each other are all commercial, or residential, or even heavy industrial, then the aforementioned challenges are diminished for all properties in the area. A single residential property in the middle of commercial properties is practically guaranteed to spell headaches for all involved.

When the Council denied the spot zoning request for the property at 913 Ames, Councilmember Brecheisen instructed the Planning Commission and City staff to review the property zoning for all residential properties along U.S. 56 highway to determine if a commercial zoning designation makes sense. The Planning Commission will now look at larger sections of properties (such as the block where 913 Ames is located) to determine the best zoning classification given the current and likely future use of those properties, plus the surrounding properties, traffic patterns, road types, etc. It is at this level that a planning organization works best, and looking at the matter holistically will ensure that the entire community benefits from the decision, rather than just a specific individual.

Robin Bayer 913-645-6666


BaldwinDad 7 years, 5 months ago

Fair enough...thanks for the response.

I still think that we could grandfather these residential homes in to allow residential to rebuilt there if destroyed, but as 1776attorney pointed out the homeowner did buy it knowing this so I guess it's not on the city to change it now 30 years later since he wants to sell it.


Stacy Napier 7 years, 5 months ago

I believe it is very bad policy for government officials at any level to make changes to laws or ordinances for the purpose of conferring financial advantage to a specific individual.

In that case we don't want to see any changes in any zoning from now on. We also don't want to see any changes in laws for business like alcohol down town/ sunday sales of liquor etc. That is surely for the benefit of individual business finacial gain.

Give me a brake


1776attorney 7 years, 5 months ago

The primary reason more people do not contribute to the conversation on this site are the anonymous, angry and sometimes ill-informed personal attacks by the contributors towards others. Thus the reason you see the same few authors over and over on here with no real advancement or analysis of the subject matter.

(Contrary to what may be perceived, you are not anonymous to an average computer literate person who can very easily trace your IP address right to your front door)

The decision by the city council was the appropriate and only legitimate one available to them unless they wanted all sorts of future lawsuits (at taxpayer cost).

Secondly, the homeowner bought the home in 1980 knowing the zoning restraints and when the sale closed, he formally agreed to those terms legally. His request was to change the zoning to help him sell the property for his own financial benefit (and the new owner's financial benefit)- not the taxpayers financial benefit. Money in their pocket, not the taxpayer's account.

If the city council granted this zoning request, I suspect the very same anonymous contributors would be complaining wildly about favoritism to this homeowner.

Some portions of Highway 56 / Ames Street look like an inner city ghetto........the rundown bars, sloppy stores, etc. While there have been great improvements, those small pockets of dilapidation ruin the appearance in spots. These areas are not good first impressions. Nor are they appealing to citizens who have to see them everyday. For this reason alone, the zoning should be improved and enforced into future development.

I have never met Robin Bayer, nor would I recognize him on the street. But I will say that he always comes online and offers a very well thought-out explanation for the benefit of readers. His comments take considerable time to research and compose. You do not have to agree with him every time, but at least grant him the respect and appreciation that he extends to his constituents. Perceived anonymity is no excuse for uncivilized interaction.


Stacy Napier 7 years, 5 months ago

If you are the average computer person have you ever heard of proxy? How about public computers at the library?

And I didn't know that really needed real analysis of the subject matter on a blog board. If you are looking here for that you have problems.

Also the only real reason we have lawsuits is attorneys. Which we have too many of now. I really think anyone (except and attorney) would agree with.


true_bulldog 7 years, 5 months ago

You have not met Robin. That's why you can believe his BS. Anyone who has met the guy who can't look you in the eye if he wanted to, knows better. He's the worst person ever to be hoisted on the Baldwin City political scene.


loosecaboose 7 years, 5 months ago

They have never answered my inquiry in the first comment. Politicians and lawyers only cost us money as they appear to park any common sense they ever had.


robinbayer 7 years, 5 months ago


I am afraid I cannot provide the details as to how the Planning Commission and City Council made the determination to change the zoning on the east side of Crimson Ave from Commercial designation to Residential (R2) for the two duplexes that you mention. That change would have been made by my best interpretation of records to be in 2006. I was not on the City Council until May of 2009.

Robin Bayer


true_bulldog 7 years, 5 months ago

Good question, loose. Way to keep them to task. It doesn't work. Even the answer-man Robin can't answer your question. I rest my case. Worst Baldwin City politician ever.


1776attorney 7 years, 5 months ago

Thank you for proving the point I mentioned above. I couldn't have done a better job myself. Your posts have made my point for me.


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