For the first time in his seven years as mayor of Davenport, Bill Gluba used his veto power Wednesday night against two major development projects.
Gluba overruled aldermen who last week supported a rezoning plan for a St. Ambrose University stadium project in a 6-4 vote and unanimously supported a development plan for the site of the former Dock restaurant on the Mississippi riverfront.
At Wednesday's committee-of-the-whole, Gluba announced his vetoes, suggesting that he is looking out for the interests of residents over developers.
"I believe as mayor I must put neighborhoods ahead of private corporations," he said of the stadium project, "and that's what I'm doing tonight by vetoing this rezoning proposal."
Alderman Jason Gordon, at large, called the mayor's vetoes "unprecedented" and an "affront to the council."
"It was a shot across the bow," Gordon said of the stadium veto.
Aldermen Bill Edmond, 2nd Ward, called the mayor's veto of the Dock project "grandstanding."
"The mayor must be power-hungry tonight with two vetoes," Edmond said. "I'm pretty sure we have the votes to override them."
The city council has 30 days to override a mayor's veto, and some aldermen said they will vote to override both at their meeting next week.
Overriding each veto requires at least seven votes.
Out of the four "no" votes cast last week on the St. Ambrose rezoning request, Alderman Rick Dunn, 1st Ward, said Wednesday that he won't change his mind.
But Alderman Barney Barnhill, 5th Ward, who also had voted against the rezoning, said after the meeting that he is wavering.
Barnhill said he has "mixed feelings" about the issue.
"I feel a lot of compassion for the neighbors who made a compelling case," he said. "I also support the democratic process. If the majority says one thing, that's what it ought to be. I'll sleep on it."
Meanwhile, St. Ambrose is weighing its options.
Mike Poster, the university's vice president for finance, called Gluba's veto "disappointing." He said the university has addressed concerns Gluba pointed out like parking, traffic and stormwater runoff after four years and 30 meetings with neighbors.
"We met all the requirements of the ordinance, and in some ways far exceeded the requirements," Poster said.
Poster declined to say if St. Ambrose might opt to circumvent the city and move forward with the project anyway.
"I'd like to go forward with the plan that was approved by planning and zoning and the city council," he said.
Alderman Bill Boom, 3rd Ward, said the stadium project actually solved stormwater runoff issues in the neighborhood.
"That was a strong enough reason to make the project go forward," Boom said.
St. Ambrose wanted a portion of the St. Vincent's property to be rezoned from moderate density dwelling district to a planned institutional district, or PID, so it can build an athletic complex that would include a 2,500-seat football stadium and track, along with parking and other athletic fields.
There are 23 conditions, such as making sanitary storm sewer improvements, that the university would have had to fulfill as the project moved forward.
City council chambers were packed Wednesday night to hear Gluba's decision, and the reaction was mixed.
"I'm elated," Jacklynn Draper, a resident of the neighborhood and stadium opponent, said. "It's more than we can ask for. I feel that at least part of our voice is back now. We feel vindicated for a lot of our hard work."
Not all neighbors were happy with Gluba's veto. Bruce Werning asked who will fix the sewers in the area if the stadium project doesn't go forward. He also called St. Ambrose "a good neighbor."
"They're part of this community," Werning said. "Let them grow."
Joe Dillon, a St. Ambrose junior from Davenport who played on the football team, said he was "embarrassed" to use Brady Street Stadium, the same venue he has used since seventh grade.
"So many students won't go to the games because they won't go all the way to Brady Street," Dillon said.
The proposed stadium is within walking distance of the campus.
Dillon also said he was "shocked" by the mayor's vote, given that Gluba is a St. Ambrose graduate.
Gluba mentioned that too, saying he has "great loyalty" to St. Ambrose, but it was his "duty to exercise my judgment and look out for the interest of the entire city of Davenport — especially homeowners."
Gluba, who lives in the St. Ambrose neighborhood, said the football stadium "certainly does not add to the city's economic base since no other commercial establishments such as restaurants, stores or motels would be permitted in this residential area."
Jim Welch, chairman of the Neighborhood Relations Council and one of the most outspoken opponents of the project, wasn't surprised by Gluba's veto. Welch said he met multiple times with the mayor in the past week and said he seemed "conflicted" until the end.
"We'll be at the meeting next week," Welch said. "We're sending a message to the four aldermen who supported us, asking that they continue to support us."
Contacted after the meeting, Todd Raufeisen, developer of the Dock site project, says he is confident he will continue to have the council's unanimous support.
"We don't plan to slow down," he said.
Raufeisen wants to build a 40,000-square-foot, three-story building with restaurants on the first floor, office space on the second, a banquet facility on the top floor, and parking below the building for a $12 million investment on the riverfront.