St. Clair Council faces controversial zoning ordinance change

By Tony Wittkowski | Local Government Reporter | The Times Herald

City Council has been discussing a zoning ordinance that has received a lot of attention in St. Clair for nearly two months.

It appears there will be at least one more month until council makes its decision.

An ordinance to change the zoning at 678 N. Riverside Ave. from a single-family residential to Planned Unit Development was moved for discussion to the council’s April 20 meeting.

The PUD classification would allow property owner Wally Evans to build a three-unit condominium on the property. This has been met with opposition by some of Evans’ neighbors.

“My intent was always to build a three-unit condominium,” said Evans, a former county commissioner. “It would have the same footprint and we would just be adding a new roof.”

The property was zoned R-3 multi-family residential when Evans’ mother purchased it seven years ago. It was later rezoned as R-1 in February 2014 when the city adopted its new zoning map.

The ordinance was introduced on a 5-to-1 vote in the March 2 meeting, with councilmember Tom McCartney voting against it. The ordinance amendment was originally sent for a vote to the March 16 meeting, but was tabled to ensure the entire council would be present.

Mayor Bill Cedar said the ordinance amendment was moved to April because at least two councilmembers will be absent for the next two meetings.

“I think everyone was waiting to hear as much info as they could,” Cedar said. “It is an important decision and we have spent a lot of time on this particular proposal. We just want to make sure we have all seven people when it’s voted on.”

Cedar said the ordinance was tabled by council in January and February because they had received new information.

“We wanted time to go through the information,” he said. “The additional information pertained to the meetings and discussions the planning commission had over the ordinance.”

The ordinance has met heavy opposition from Chris Brieden, Evans’ neighbor, who has spoken against the ordinance in previous meetings.

Brieden provided a petition signed by 53 residents opposing the ordinance in a Jan. 19 council meeting.

His argument is that the PUD would add onto the existing traffic problems at the top of the hill by his home and damage property values for surrounding residents.

“He’s taking a beautiful home that was built by a famous architect and destroying it by putting in condominiums,” he said. “It’s going to be a monstrosity. Nobody else wants it there, but the city council is probably going to approve it.”

Evans has owned the 9,000 square foot house since 2007.

He first began applying for a zoning ordinance change a year ago. Evans said his intent is to live in one of the condos and sell the other two.

“I wanted a senior citizen type of development,” Evans said. “I want something more manageable. It’s the best use for it.”

During the March 2 meeting, councilmember Mike LaPorte said he had mixed feelings about the zoning ordinance.

“It’s a tough one,” he said. “We’ve had a lot of debate about it. Whatever we pass cannot be changed.”

The city’s planning commission had recommended the rezoning to PUD in December.

Building Inspector DJ Boulier told the council to introduce the ordinance in the March 2 meeting.

“We’ve been through this twice now,” Boulier said. “The planning commission did their job. The council should introduce it and come back in two weeks to vote on it.”

Contact Tony Wittkowski at (810) 989-6270 or Follow him on Twitter @tonywittkowski.

(Author’s Note: This article was originally published on March 15, 2015)


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