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This large residential-commercial development has been proposed for 2119 College St. in Cedar Falls.

CEDAR FALLS — The Planning and Zoning Commission on Wednesday night declined to endorse a five-story commercial and residential complex on College Hill.

The project, proposed by a company of developer Brent Dahlstrom, would be an L-shaped building taking up three properties: 2119 College St., 1003 W. 22nd St. and the former Ginger’s bar location at 922 W. 22nd St. The existing buildings on those properties would be demolished.

The commission deadlocked on the plan, 4-4. The City Council could still approve the proposal without the commission’s blessing.

Parking once again was the primary concern.

The 62,000-square-foot project would include of commercial retail space on the first floor and 83 residential units on the second through fifth floors.

Those units would house around 120 residents. But the proposal would add just 94 parking spaces, a fact that concerned many College Hill neighbors.

The crux of Wednesday’s argument: Is it a retail development with some apartments, or an apartment complex with some storefronts? If it is a retail development, there are no parking requirements.

The meeting resembled a courtroom at times, with both sides’ attorneys making their respective cases.

Brian Sires, a College Hill resident who hired legal council to oppose the plan, said the answer is clear.

“Anyone walking up to it who looks at it and realizes there are four flours of residential and a partial floor of commercial is going to say this is a residential, this is an apartment building,” Sires said.

He said he had five lawyers look over the city’s zoning code, and all told him the proposed plan isn’t mixed use.

“Including a prior Cedar Falls city attorney who sent a letter to City Council indicating our interpretation was correct,” Sires said. “This is a principally residential building. It’s not a principally commercial building, and if you can’t see that then you have the wool pulled over your eyes.”

But Dave Deibler, who owns several businesses on the Hill, spoke in favor of the site plan.

Matt Hardin, an attorney representing Dahlstrom, noted the vast majority of the use from the public would be commercial.

Karen Howard, city planning and community services, said the building would be built to commercial standards with storefront space.

But LeeAnn Saul, one of the commissioners who voted against the plan, said that is clearly not the case.

Saul asked Howard how principal use is defined in the city’s code.

“My definition that I understand is it’s the first, the main, the first order of importance,” Saul said. “When I look at this project the first order of importance is residential. It is not commercial.”

Both the rezoning effort and the site plan can continue, Howard said.

“If the applicant wants to continue to request the application for rezoning, and the land use map amendment, that can go forward and that’s considered on its own merits,” Howard said.

In the end, the vote was tied with Brad Leeper, Brian Arntson, David Hartley and Hillery Oberle voting in favor of the proposal, and Mardy Holst, Saul, Deb Giarusso and Chelle Adkins voting against.

Oberle had technical difficulties and her vote didn't show up during the session on the public screen. 

The commission did recommend unanimously the parcel at 1015 and 1021 W. 22nd St. be rezoned to a mix used commercial district — for parking.

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