Round two before the City Council’s Planning, Zoning and Economic Development Committee produced the same result Wednesday as the committee’s earlier hearing this month:
Another meeting scheduled for more discussion about a controversial 17th and Madison apartment project.
After another three hours of public testimony, the committee agreed to a proposal from Councilwoman Katheryn Shields to delay the issue until July 13. Shields said her concern was that “we need to make sure there’s wide community input” as well as “look at issues, as a council, that concern density and tax abatement.”
The proposed 48-unit apartment development, with some some ground-floor office space and an underground parking garage, would replace a vacant warehouse and vacant land on the southwest corner of 17th and Madison.
Developers with EPC Real Estate are asking the planning and zoning committee for a zoning change to allow higher-density development on part of the property, plus a blight declaration. Those steps would pave the way for their separate property tax abatement request to proceed.
Tax abatement was not at issue at the plans and zoning meeting, but it was the focus of much of the opponents’ testimony. Seventeen people from the West Side, speaking against the project, outnumbered supporters by 3-to-1. Critics said they didn’t want higher-density housing, more traffic, faster gentrification or tax abatements for projects that don’t reflect the area’s Hispanic heritage.
EPC had proposed a larger redevelopment in December before the city’s Planned Industrial Expansion Authority. At that time, the company said it would seek property tax abatement to defray costs of an underground parking garage designed to address on-street parking problems in the neighborhood. The PIEA board in January agreed that the property was blighted and advanced the project to City Hall.
After neighbors criticized the proposal as too dense and bringing too much traffic into the neighborhood, the developers held at least 15 meetings with people on the West Side and presented a downscaled plan.
The planning and zoning committee in early June heard neighborhood opposition at a hearing that extended late into the evening. Many residents, intending to speak for or against the project, left before the proposal — which was heard at the end of the agenda — was addressed. But the committee at that time advanced the measure to the full council, which voted to return it to the committee for further testimony.
Several neighbors and city economic development leaders testified that developers Austin Bradley and Steve Coon had taken unusually long steps to downsize their plan, but longtime West Side residents — many of whom weren’t involved in the neighborhood meetings — said they couldn’t support the apartment project because it wasn’t in keeping with the character of the West Side.
Bradley and Coon told committee chairman Scott Taylor that they would meet again with neighbors to discuss options for the project.