Planning commission votes to recommend zoning change by David Lias The Vermillion Planning Commission agreed Monday to change the zoning of a parcel of property in north Vermillion from a residential district to a business district.
The real estate, bordered by Duke Street on the south, Highway 50 on the north, and Princeton Street on the west, is currently zoned R-0 single family residential district and R-I residential district.
The zoning commission agreed to recommend that the Vermillion City Council change the zoning of a small portion of the land to B-1 General Business District.
The majority of the land, according to the commission, should be zoned I-0 Industrial Park District.
The proposed B-1 district would connect to an existing B-2 zoning where Henderson Exhaust Plus is located on Princeton Street.
"We anticipate that there may be some multi-family house starts along with some possible businesses along Princeton in the Duke Street area," said Farrel Christensen of the city's code enforcement department.
The I-0 district, Christensen said, would allow for light manufacturing and retail sales.
Christensen said the proposed zones are based on a comprehensive plan that was approved a zoning ordinance that the planning commission approved more than a year ago.
Over 20 citizens � many of them Vermillion business owners � attended Monday's meeting.
There has been speculation in the community that Wal-Mart may construct a retail center somewhere in the area where the zoning change is proposed.
The retailer, however, was never mentioned during Monday's discussion.
Vermillion businessman Larry Brady told the commission that the city already has three business districts, located downtown, in east Cherry Street, and in west Cherry Street.
"If this zoning proposal is approved, that will put a fourth business district in the city of Vermillion," he said, "and I don't feel this town needs a fourth business district."
Brady said there is currently about 35 acres of vacant commercial land on the west side of Vermillion ready for development.
"The city of Vermillion should not be in competition with the private sector in the area of commercial real estate," he said.
The proposed zoning change will more than triple the amount of commercial property in the city, Brady said.
He noted that he and others have spent a significant amount of money to preparing property for commercial development.
He said the city's tax base could still expand without the zoning change because of the availability of commercial property in other parts of Vermillion.
Commission members Judy Clark, Margaret Crew and Jenny French voted against the zoning change.
Clark was critical of the practices being followed by the city and zoning commission. Even though there was a public notice of Monday's meeting published in the Plain Talk, there likely are citizens affected by the proposed zoning change who weren't aware of the meeting.
"It seems to me there are lots of people in town who know nothing about this, despite there being an announcement in the paper," Clark said. "This is one of the problems that I think we have in the city � we have a very strange way of communicating and not a very good way of communicating with the public."
A man whose home is in Radcliffe Circle, located south of Duke Street, said he and his neighbors never received any notice about the zoning meeting.
"What's your intention with the property?" he asked. "What could come in right across the street from us?"
"What we anticipate is that some businesses may locate along Princeton," Christensen said, "but we will establish multi-family duplexes in back of the first row of single-family dwellings on Duke Street."
The zoning commission, by state law, included a listing of affected property owners within 250 feet of the property that may experience a zone change. Those property owners have the right to appeal decisions made by the city council.
That state law, however, doesn't require the commission to do more than publish a public notice in the newspaper to notify citizens of the planned changes.
"We try to follow the rules when we establish the zone change," Christensen said.
"We couldn't go beyond the rules to let the public know about something like this?" Clark asked.
"It is a sensitive zone change, and to do things that aren't required or allowed might invite problems rather than deter them," Christensen said.
"I don't see how letting the public know things to the best of our ability would invite problems," Clark said.
When questioned, City Manager Jim Patrick noted the property that was the topic of Monday's hearing is owned by the city.
"We have a couple of different potential buyers," Patrick said. "We're looking at that, and we have some potential buyers for the Erickson Industrial Park across on the west side of the street."
Clark asked Christensen if any more information could be revealed about the businesses that may locate on the property.
"We can talk about what businesses might be locating there, but it would be really inappropriate to talk about specific businesses and the prejudice we might have toward them."
The issue now goes to the Vermillion City Council at its July 6 meeting.