Pharos-Tribune

November 18, 2012

OUR VIEW: City should listen to critics


— Supporters say a proposed amendment to city zoning regulations will promote development of senior housing not only downtown but throughout the city.

They might be right.

Critics of the plan, though, fear that the goal of the change is to shut off public debate on a controversial project.

Zoning regulations currently require that a developer obtain a special use permit for housing on the first floor of any downtown building, and obtaining such a permit requires an appearance before the Logansport Board of Zoning Appeals.

Developers proposing a four-story senior housing complex at the corner Fourth and Market streets ran into trouble at that stage in the process when the BZA rejected their application.

Opponents objected to the location of the development, saying that the lot and an adjacent park were an important part of a public gathering place in the center of town. Nearby businesses also complained that the plan suffered from a lack of off-street parking.

Arin Shaver, the city-county planning director, rejects the idea that her office is trying to limit public discussion. She points out that the farmers market project would have had to go before the BZA even under the new regulations. And she argues that the proposed amendment isn’t aimed at pushing through the farmers market project.

“These rules would apply to any project,” she said last week.

Developing senior housing in Logansport is a good idea. It’s a particularly good idea to develop such housing downtown, where an influx of residents should lead to a boost in commercial activity. People who live downtown will likely spend money downtown, not only supporting the businesses already in place but perhaps inspiring new businesses to set up shop.

Opponents don’t argue that point. Most seem to agree with the concept of developing more housing downtown.

They argue, though, that the southeast corner of Fourth and Market streets is not the place to develop that housing. And they say changing the rules to make it easier for developers to avoid an appearance before the BZA won’t change that.

City officials ought to listen these dissenting voices. Regardless of whether the planning commission and ultimately the city council approve this new ordinance, officials should back away from the idea of a senior housing project at Fourth and Market streets.