Tuesday, Sept. 17


Council votes on rezoning Fifth Street property after edgy testimony

[SEPT. 17, 2002]  Last night’s city council meeting was the scene of continued heated debate. A number of the residents spoke at last week’s work session, giving their reasons not to allow a commercial rezoning of property fronting Fifth Street at 1103 and 1129. The property is located across from the new Casey’s General Store.

The owners of the property, the Goodman family, re-petitioned the city after the Lincoln Planning Commission, at an Aug. 15 committee meeting, denied the request to rezone the property from residential to commercial. Cynthia Goodman believed some of the planning commission members may not have not have received all the pertinent information. Goodman would like to open a flower shop on the property.

Neighbors who reside adjacent to the property strongly argued their opposition to the request to rezone it from R-2, residential, to C-2, commercial.

Last week’s leading concerns revolved around the belief that the watershed from the installation of a paved parking lot would be problematic. Residents believe the water flow will overwhelm the drainage system that currently exists. They claimed there are problems already. They are afraid of water damages to their homes.

Residents also shared concerns about the loss of trees that sit on the property. The trees provide a visual and noise buffer from Fifth Street traffic.


Additionally it was pointed out that even though a flower shop is intended to be built to occupy that space now, that does not guarantee that is what will happen now, or maybe 20 years down the road something less desirable will go there.

Monday night Mayor Beth Davis opened the floor to further comments from the public before the council began their discussion. She asked that people bring only any new arguments or information.

Several people came forth. First was a neighborhood resident from Fourth Street. Susan Stringfield pointed out that adding business will increase traffic flow in an area that is already hazardous to children. She said she has a son who was hit and critically injured at one time in just such traffic.

Another neighbor, Suella Tucker, said that Casey’s turned their lights on the other night and it was "enough light to read a book." The development of this property as commercial would mean the loss of trees that provide a light buffer.


Nick Burgrabe, an attorney representing the neighbors to the property, addressed the judicial issues revolving around rezoning property. He cautioned the council to take into consideration several points before voting. He began by directing the focus that this was a petition to change zoning. If rezoned to C-2, commercial, any business can go in there. In his research he found a like matter that was settled in the courts, "‘Spot zoning’ is cautioned where there is not a comprehensive zoning plan," like Lincoln, he pointed out. He added that the property sits right in the middle of all residential property. He cited Illinois law that says, "Zoning should not be in the interest of a few." That is the case here, he said.


Burgrabe concluded by saying that there would be a diminution of the property and adjacent property values by zoning commercial. He issued a challenge, saying, "They (the petitioners) need to prove it is in the best interest of the public."

"There is no reason this property cannot be developed for the purpose it is already zoned (residential)."


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Cynthia Goodman said the flower shop building would block the light. Not only that, but they plan to build a fence, and that would help also.

Addressing the traffic issue, she said, "A flower shop is 75 percent phone orders. It is a low-traffic business."

She was followed by her husband, Steve Goodman of Harold Goodman Excavating and Trucking, who simply reiterated his willingness to comply with any requests made by the city to get the property developed in a pleasing manner.

Alderman Benny Huskins opened the council discussion. "Whenever we get a recommendation from the planning commission, I think we ought to take it," he said, indicating he would vote against the petition.

Alderman Joe Stone joined him, explaining, "For years I lived next to commercial." Stone added that he would consider the neighbors’ feelings and vote against commercial rezoning.


Aldermen Glenn Shelton and Steve Fuhrer were the first to indicate possible favoritism in the rezoning. Shelton carefully worded his thoughts, observing that it was only a few months ago that an outside corporation requested the same thing for property directly across the street. Neighbors came before the council at that time and spoke against them with the same issues. The corporation, Casey’s, won the zoning change to commercial. Now a hometown person would like to develop a business. Shelton urged his fellow council members, "Remember what we did a few months ago when we consider this tonight."

Fuhrer began, "What I don’t understand is why this wasn’t zoned commercial 20 years ago." There are businesses all up and down that area. Just in the nearest blocks are the VFW, Postville Courthouse, a chiropractor and at one time a beauty shop. "I think it will help the neighborhood," he said.

Melton tendered a sentiment that was prevalent in the room, saying, "It saddens me that if granted rezoning, there is a group here that wants to preserve their neighborhood. One of my concerns is the drainage problem. I want to see that, if rezoned, they adhere to it." He added, "I like to see neighbors sticking together."

Melton took a diversion for a moment, saying that he would like to address a comment that was made during last week’s work session by someone addressing this issue. "I was offended by the good-old-boy-club comment. Each and every one of the aldermen up here makes up their own mind." Several yeses indicated others took exception to the comment also.

Back to the rezoning issue, Verl Prather said that he had thought about it for weeks. He drove up and down that stretch of street assessing it and concluded, "It seems to me to be commercial property."

Before the vote City Attorney Bill Bates apprised the council that it would require a two-thirds vote, seven votes, to overturn the planning commission’s recommendation to keep the property residential.

Upon roll call the vote was 6-4. Aldermen Huskins, Mitchell, Stone and Armbrust voted no. The property remains residential.

[Jan Youngquist]

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