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Council overrides board of adjustments on ground-floor apartment

Creston City Council approved a resolution to allow a 12-month “trial run” of a ground floor apartment in uptown Creston after a public hearing at its regularly scheduled meeting Tuesday.

Property owner Jesse Harris purchased a commercial building, 119 W. Montgomery St., in January, which featured two apartments. At the time of purchase, one of those apartments was not zoned as residential and Harris was unaware. After investing a considerable amount of money into rehabilitating and renovating the building, his two requests to rezone the building have been denied the city’s board of adjustments.

“After this process, it hasn’t been the most investor friendly or to have young people to come in and renovate buildings,” said Harris. “Because, if the city won’t work with me or anyone else, I don’t see a solution.”

During the public hearing, Harris clarified that there is only one ground floor apartment in question, which is currently being rented, as it has been for more than 20 years. Harris said after attempts to approach the Chamber and UCDA, and six months of advertising the commercial space for lease or rent, he decided to continue to rent the space as residential.

“I’m not against having commercial spaces, but, it’s just, what do we do in the mean time with all these buildings if they keep sitting vacant in downtown Creston?” asked Harris.

Harris presented council members with a map, photos and a list of more than a dozen empty commercial spaces and ground floor apartments before requesting a six month variance in the ordinance, which would allow him to test renting the space to a tenant he approves of.

Gabe Carroll, Ward 4 representative spoke out against the variance.

“I understand the problem in finding commercial real estate renters downtown. I know that’s an issue,” said Carroll.

Carroll said, after sitting on a number of committees to improve the uptown commercial district, his goal is to attract more business.

Carroll said he had talked to constituents such as Dennis and Connie Purdam and Mike Cohen, who are not only invested in the uptown, but are concerned about the amount of parking issues, loitering and other nuances ground-floor apartments could bring. Carroll said, although slow, there has been commercial growth uptown, especially on West Adams Street.

Public Works Director Kevin Kruse said this is the first time the board of adjustments has denied a request of this type.

“So, he’s running into a brick wall because he’s trying to do things right?,” said Rich Madison, ward 2 representative.

Despite “no” votes from Carroll and feelow councilmember Terry Freeman, a motion made by Madison and seconded by Steve Wintermute, passed a resolution for a 12-month variance to section 165.08(5) and allow Harris’s request.

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