Davenport aldermen voted to approve the rezoning request for a multi-family residential development at East Kimberly Road and Welcome Way. Neighbors are concerned about traffic safety and the amount of water runoff that would be created by the six, three-story buildings. (File John Schultz/Quad-City Times)

John Schultz

The Davenport City Council voted 8-2 Wednesday to approve a rezoning request for a multi-family housing project at East Kimberly Road and Welcome Way that was symbolized by the fate of a stand of trees on the property.

McNamara Family Property Development wants to build six three-story buildings on the 2.77 acre site at 213 E. Kimberly Road.

The buildings will give the project at least 50 and possibly up to 58 townhomes. Taxes to the city on the development would be in excess of $100,000 annually.

A number of St. Ambrose University students and environmental activists protested the zoning request because some trees would be removed for the project, and neighbors said their concerns were lost because so much emphasis was placed on the trees.

Several students spoke on the issue, decrying Davenport as a “concrete haven,” and “devoid of trees.”

“I really felt this was overshadowed by the trees,” said Carolyn Miller, who lives on nearby Fair Avenue. “I feel like the aldermen focused more at times on the trees and not what we were saying.”

Lisa Dingeldein, who lives on 37th Street, worried about what will be built near her house.

“I will see huge buildings that don’t look like they belong at all,” she said. “I’m not going to have a home at all.”

The neighbors raised concerns about population density, safety, traffic and quality-of-life issues that the multi-family project could create. They won at least one vote with their argument as Alderman Bill Edmond, 2nd Ward, joined Alderman Bill Boom, 3rd Ward, in voting against the project. Boom had voted against it in two previous votes, citing water runoff issues.

“Trees are not an endangered species in the city of Davenport,” Edmond said. “A less intrusive project like single family homes might be better. I can’t support the rezoning.”

The rezoning request needed eight votes to pass because of a protest rate of more than 20 percent against the project.

While approving the development, aldermen indicated they shared the concerns of neighbors, assuring them they would follow the project closely and have the final say on the site plan, which still must be reviewed.

“The concerns of the neighbors are extremely important,” said Alderman Jason Gordon, at large.

The rezoning comes with several conditions, including no access from Fair Avenue, a right-turn deceleration lane on East Kimberly Road to enter the property, a 3-foot landscape berm be built on part of the property, lighting must be shielded from neighbors and landscaping must be above minimum requirements.

George Henley, who lives with his wife, Jean, on Fair Avenue, raised concerns about construction being done one building at a time over several years.

“The construction noise could go on for several years and hurt my property values,” he said. “Please set a time limit on the whole building construction.”

Boom moved for a sunset clause amendment, which was approved, that would return the site to its original zoning if the project doesn’t receive site plan approval within two years.

Developer Dick McNamara had a supporter in Walter Skovronski, the city’s landlord association president. Skovronski voiced some reservations for the project while calling the students and activists “environmental wackos,” earning a stern warning from Mayor Bill Gluba.

Skovronski wanted to ensure stormwater runoff would be dealt with to prevent street flooding of several rental properties on 35th Street damaged during heavy rains in June 2008.

“Stormwater plans need to be checked and double-checked,” he said. “This is development that is needed.”

McNamara has spoken at previous meetings, saying he has met with city engineers on several occasions to hash out the best design to handle stormwater runoff. He reiterated that Wednesday.

“The water is an important factor for us,” he said. “When we’re finished with this project, we may be setting a new bar for Davenport.”