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ROGERS -- An eight-months-long dispute over apartments going onto a 13-acre site on South Champions Drive goes to the City Council after gaining Planning Commission approval Tuesday for both a rezoning and a permit.

At least 70 audience members attended the commission's meeting at 4:30 p.m. at City Hall, and at least 50 attended for the Champions Drive debate, leaving after that matter was decided. Residents who spoke before the decision opposed the measure, citing traffic concerns and claiming the zoning was inconsistent with neighborhoods in the area.

Bill Watkins, attorney for developer S.C. Bodner Co. of Indianapolis, pointed out to commission members it was his fourth appearance before them. His client tried to address every concern raised by the city and area residents, including agreeing to classify the project as a large-scale development, which grants the city more regulatory oversight than other projects. Watkins first brought the project to the commission in September.

No amount of oversight can change the nature of the project, protested Christy Lamers, an organizer of local opposition and chief spokeswoman Tuesday for the group objecting to the project. The project is a high-density apartment complex with a thin strip of commercial space added so the developer can claim it's mixed use for the purpose of meeting city planning guidelines, she said.

"This is mixed use," Lamers said, pointing out a large bowl she had brought containing a variety of fruits. The project being considered, however, was comparable to the stacks of grapes she brought fixed on kabob sticks, arranged in a rank and file pattern and with strawberries stuck at the bottom end on only the front row.

The commission approved rezoning the land from agricultural use to commercial unanimously. Residential use on commercial property is allowed only if the first floor of each residential building is devoted to commercial space. Watkins asked for a conditional use status to allow the first floor of the buildings that don't front Pinnacle Hills Parkway to be used as residential space also until the area develops. His client would construct the first floor to the higher standards demanded in city regulations for commercial space with the intention of converting it later. Residents expressed skepticism the space would ever be turned to a commercial use if the developers were allowed to lease it as residential.

The commission approved Watkins' request for two years, subject to review before for any extension. The commission also required developers honor any residential lease of first-floor property beyond the two-year period. The conditions were approved in an 8-1 vote, with commission John Schmelze voting no.

NW News on 05/16/2018

Print Headline: Planning Commission approves Champions Drive project

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