A St. Ambrose University zoning request for an athletic complex that has riled neighbors passed the Davenport Plan and Zoning Commission 7-3 on Tuesday to move to the Davenport City Council.
The university wants to rezone 31 of the St. Vincent's Center property's 45 acres to build a sports complex that includes a 2,500-seat football stadium, softball venue, other athletic fields and 410-space parking lot.
The approval comes with 17 conditions attached that the university doesn't oppose.
It is expected to go to the city council in June for a public hearing and must pass three readings to go into effect. Super-majority approval won't be required because of the commission's approval and the current protest rate is below 20 percent.
Neighbors and university officials have been trying to make their respective cases since St. Ambrose submitted documents to the Neighborhood Relations Council in January. The Plan and Zoning Commission held a three-hour hearing earlier this month.
Neighbors didn't have much reaction to Tuesday's vote despite scoffing early in the meeting at a comment that the proposal won't affect stormwater runoff. Instead, they will turn to making a case to the city council.
"The neighbors are willing to participate in the process with the city council," said Betzy McLeland, who lives on Gaines Street near the St. Vincent's property. "We're eager to educate them on our point of view."
While traffic and sewer issues are main issues neighbors raise, their way of life is a major concern, McLeland said of the quiet neighborhood with little traffic on side streets.
"It is just going to uproot this long-existing neighborhood," she said.
Mike Poster, vice president of finance for St. Ambrose, acknowledged the process has reached the halfway point but was glad to do it with approval of the commission.
"We're happy with how the Plan and Zoning Commission vote came out, and we're happy to get to this point in the process when we take it to the city council," he said.
The university wants to continue working with the neighbors, Poster said. The city is studying a sewer line through the property that could ease sewer problems that have caused problems in the neighborhood to the east.
"We've said all along we're willing to work with neighbors," Poster said.
Those sewer problems were among reservations raised by commissioners Susan Lammers and Scott Kelling, who voted against the zoning request.
Kelling, with his background as a real estate agent, said the sewer issue that he thought could be made worse by the sports complex would harm property values and "stigmatize the neighborhood."
"Long after the stadium lights have dimmed, the stormwater issue remains," he said.
They also were concerned about the process and traffic on West Central Park Avenue that borders the south side of the property.
"I just don't want to go in thinking everything is going to be perfect," Lammers said.
Commissioner Cathy Cartee was the only member of the panel to speak in support of the project, while back-handedly taking the city to task for the sewer problems to the east of the St. Ambrose property.
"Why build a bridge to nowhere and not fix the sewer? I don't know," she said. "Why build a Ferris wheel instead of fixing your sewers? I don't know, but that is not St. Ambrose's fault."
The Ferris wheel at Modern Woodmen Park, which is expected to open this weekend, is owned by Main Street Baseball, owner of the Quad-Cities River Bandits. It was paid for through a lease agreement with the city that includes a loan repayment. Construction of the pad where the Ferris wheel sits was paid for by the city.
The $7.4 million skybridge over River Drive was part of the $113.5 million River Renaissance plan to revitalize downtown that was approved by Scott County voters in 2001. River Renaissance was paid for through $62.8 million in private investment, $30 million in local tax money and $20 million in Vision Iowa money.