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Palmer College of Chiropractic plans to invest more than $50 million to upgrade and improve its central Davenport campus, but a planning expert takes issue with an analysis of the plan's impact on the neighborhood.

Kevin E. Schmidt, QUAD-CITY TIMES FILE PHOTO

A planning firm has found Palmer College of Chiropractic's long-range zoning plans will not have a negative impact on the neighborhood's populations, but an expert cited in the analysis disagrees.

Mosaic Community Planning's analysis found the potential displacement of residents "does not create a statistical disparate impact on people of color" and that the zoning change "fails to represent a strong causal relationship to expected demographic changes."

Disparate impact is when policies appear to be neutral, but in reality impact a protected group disproportionately.

Calvin Bradford, a fair housing expert who wrote the law review article cited in the study, reviewed the 32-page report and found "all of the potential negative impacts fall on the non-student population."

"There are significant racial/ethnic disparities between the student and non-student segments of the (planned institutional district) population," Bradford wrote in notes provided to the Davenport Civil Rights Commission. "That is, the PID represents two distinct impacts for two very different populations. The Mosaic report fails to develop a separate minority percentage for the current non-student population that is the only segment of the population negatively impacted by the PID."

In May, Palmer revealed preliminary plans to invest more than $50 million in campus improvements over the next 10 years, including construction of the R. Richard Bittner Athletic & Recreation Center, student housing and amenities to improve the campus experience.

To make improvements identified in its 10-year master plan, the college has asked to rezone more than 38 acres into a planned institutional district, or PID.

Palmer has acquired a number of properties near its campus over several years, many historic. But some fell into disrepair and led to blight in the neighborhood. The college was granted the ability to demolish 11 of the historic properties with the caveat of a PID being approved.

But before the Planning and Zoning Commission could vote to recommend the PID, the Civil Rights Commission raised concerns about the plan violating the Fair Housing Act.

With the vote tabled indefinitely, the city paid Mosaic $11,680 in October to complete a disparate impact analysis.

Mosaic's analysis called a decision on zoning "a choice between reasonable alternatives to promote its valid and nondiscriminatory interests."

While Mosaic found no disparate impact, it recommended the city "incorporate conflicting points of view into the planning and decision-making process," "consider alternate siting of features and uses within the PID" and "explore partnerships between Palmer and neighborhood nonprofits."

In his review, Bradford noted Mosaic failed to separate the non-student racial and ethnic populations before and after the build out.

"The distribution is biased by the inclusion of the overwhelmingly white segment of the Palmer students," Bradford wrote.

Bradford also took issue with the study's claims that causality was speculative.

Under the Fair Housing Act, he said all disparate impacts claims would be termed speculative by definition, which would lead to no protections. He said analyses should instead determine whether predictions and estimates are reasonable.

From a technical perspective, Bradford also found the study did not use compatible data, switching between households, rental households and full population numbers.

"There is quite a bit of apples and oranges in the comparisons in the report," Bradford wrote.

Davenport Civil Rights Director Latrice Lacey said the commission will review the analysis and draft notes from Bradford and Jack Cann, an attorney with the Housing Justice Center, at its February meeting.

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