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February 13, 2013

Council approves senior housing for downtown

Amendment would allow for residential on ground floor

The Logansport City Council has approved an amendment to the city’s zoning ordinance that would allow for senior housing downtown.

The way the ordinance was originally written, residential space downtown was only permitted above first-floor commercial spaces. Before voting on the issue at a recent meeting, council members addressed their concerns and those brought to them by their constituents.

As there have been disputes raised at past meetings regarding housing on bottom floors of downtown buildings taking up too much retail space, Councilman Bob Bishop said he looked further into the issue and still felt comfortable with passing the amendment.

“I actually went on Market and Broadway and checked out the number of businesses and addresses between Third and Sixth streets,” Bishop said. “There are approximately 36 businesses and of those, 10 of them are vacant, so I don’t think we’re running out of space any time soon for retail businesses downstairs.”

Bishop further reasoned that because the amendment stipulates a certain amount of parking spaces would have to accompany any senior housing developments downtown, any available buildings that couldn’t accommodate enough parking wouldn’t be an option for senior housing anyway.

“I think that protects us from what the concern is about having housing in those spaces,” Bishop said.

Councilman Chuck LaDow cast the only dissenting vote on the issue, explaining after the meeting he had a “bad feeling” about what the outcome may be for event space downtown.

While there haven’t been any specific plans on exactly where senior housing will be, LaDow said he had suspicions it may end up on the vacant lot near Little Turtle Waterway reserved for the annual farmers market on Fourth Street.

“I think they’re working toward putting it on farmers market ground,” LaDow said.

LaDow said he voted no on the measure out of a desire to preserve the area for the market and all of the other events it provides a venue for.

“We’ve had a grassroots group of volunteers to improve and develop that area so it could be a community gathering place for festivals and events,” LaDow said. “To pave paradise and put up a parking lot there is not what I want to see or what the people I represent want to see.”

Councilwoman Teresa Popejoy said the part of the amendment regarding parking places would need to be modified going forward. The way the amendment is written now, one parking place would be allowed for each resident of any senior housing development that is created. After speaking with a constituent on the matter, Popejoy feels there may need to be more.

“Many times, [seniors] require services from numerous individuals or agencies,” Popejoy said, citing examples of healthcare providers and Meals on Wheels. “More parking might need to be available for those providing services to these individuals. I thought that was a very valid point and one that we need to look at as we continue on with this project.”

Because standards of amendments can be adjusted after votes of approval, Popejoy said the planning department will likely address this issue and make necessary recommendations to city council.

Councilman Joe Buck said he was approached by a constituent who was concerned downtown traffic would pose dangers to seniors crossing streets. Buck said that while he understood this concern, he felt the crosswalks and traffic signals on Market Street and Broadway provided adequate protection for pedestrians.

Mitchell Kirk is a staff reporter at the Pharos-Tribune. He can be reached at 574-732-5130 or mitchell.kirk@pharostribune.com.

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