A homeowner’s plan to repair her duplex and open it back up to renters was denied by the St. Maries Planning and Zoning Commission last week.
Denise Powell Bagley owns a lot on S. 14th Street in St. Maries and had requested it be re-zoned as a multiple-family residence, so her duplex there could be used as originally constructed. The building is currently vacant, but had previously housed multiple renters.
The board voted 4-1 to not approve Bagley’s rezoning application, with only John Widener dissenting.
“I’m sorry. I really am,” said board member Claudia Spooner after the group made its decision.
The commission’s main concern about reopening the property to renters was the lack of nearby parking. The property is at the corner of S. 14th Street and Jefferson Avenue, across the street from St. Maries Middle School, and the area is congested during school pick-up and drop-off times.
At a hearing the previous week, Bagley said that people could park further away from the property and walk, as needed, to accommodate crowding in the area. After the commission had adjourned, she said the city or school district could make the street a no-parking zone during times the buses needed to get through, but because the meeting was not a public hearing, neither Bagley nor others were able to discuss these concerns at the time.
The board discussed several potential challenges that renters could bring to the property, including the possibility of multiple vehicles and children’s bicycles.
“The people who live here don’t want somebody parking their boat or RV in front of their house,” Chairman Randie Boller said.
“And where are they going to put all the extra things, if it’s a family with children?” asked Gigi Bebaux. “There’s not anyplace to store anything. There’s no basement. How many people are going to want to rent [that]? It’s hard to know.”
The board also worried about changing the city’s zoning laws for one half-lot property. In his last remark before the commission went to a vote, Boller framed it as a question of zoning, instead of one about housing or parking.
“Basically, guys, do we want to spot-zone the city?” he asked.
After the commission denied Bagley’s re-zoning application, it also voted to deny her a variance to change the building’s roof height, saying the variance had no purpose if the property could not be rented.
The commission will take its decisions to the city council, which will either affirm or override those recommendations. The next city council meeting is Oct. 12, but Bagley does not live in the area and she has requested the commission wait until the following meeting, Oct. 25, so she can be present.
Bagley said she fully expects the council to agree with the zoning commission’s rejection, but if so, she hopes to return with different plans that would address the objections that committee members had.
“We’re going to come back and figure out more options,” she said. “Hopefully, they’ll go for one of those.”
Correction: Oct. 6, 1:30 p.m. A previous version of this story attributed planning and zoning chair Randie Boller's quotes to Mayor Tom Carver.