St. Luke's Hospital

This is the view from the belvedere of the original St. Luke's Hospital, looking north toward more Palmer College of Chiropractic buildings. The building would be torn down under Palmer's plans for the area.

Kevin E. Schmidt, QUAD-CITY TIMES

The process to consider Palmer College of Chiropractic's request to rezone its property to a  Planned Institutional District has already been put on hold, but more questions continue to arise as the city of Davenport thoroughly vets the plan.

The city issued a request for proposals on Aug. 29 for a disparate impact analysis for the 38-plus acres Palmer would like to rezone and received two proposals by the Sept. 5 deadline.

While the Housing Justice Center in St. Paul, Minnesota, did not issue a proposal, attorney Jack Cann sent a letter to Community Planning and Economic Development Director Bruce Berger stating that the analysis proposed "misses some very important points."

Palmer has indicated its desire to make improvements to its campus and enhance the study experience through investing $50 million over the next 10 years.

Those improvements, some of which will require additional fundraising, include renovations to Vickie Anne Palmer Hall and several classrooms, new student housing and more green space and recreational amenities. The college has already invested nearly $15 million in the R. Richard Bittner Athletic & Recreation center, which will have its official ribbon cutting ceremony next week.

As part of the process, Palmer had requested to demolish 12 historic properties, but was first required to apply for PID and explain its long-term plans to the Historic Preservation Commission.

The Historic Preservation Commission approved demolition for all 12 properties, but 11 out of 12 required the successful rezoning to a PID. Demolition of the former St. Luke's Hospital is not contingent on the successful rezoning.

The need for a study to analyze the disparate impact on low income housing arose after the Davenport Civil Rights Commission voiced concerns about potential Fair Housing Act violations last month.

The commission's concerns was based upon the loss of availability of affordable housing, given that the tract Palmer is looking to rezone is one of two tracts in Scott County that is recognized by the federal government as a low-income tract.

The concerns were serious enough that city staff asked for and was granted the tabling of the PID plan at last month's Plan and Zoning Commission meeting so that an analysis could be completed.

In his letter to Berger, Cann said that the analysis would require "a survey of dwelling units potentially lost as a result of the development as well as the current affordability levels of that housing."

Cann said the second step was that "the comparison of levels of dependence on affordable housing requires an analysis of affordable housing needs in the city by minority groups compared to needs to affordable housing by White, non-Hispanic households."

Lacey said in meetings between Palmer officials and city staff, it was also noted that Palmer's student housing was not limited to only Palmer students.

In the beginning, the city did not think to count those units because it was presumed those units were only offered to students.

"We're going to have to get a clear answer as to what kind of housing they are providing," Lacey said.

In the narrative provided as part of the PID application, it states "15 percent of Palmer’s students live on campus and another 30 to 40 percent live in rented neighborhood and downtown houses and apartments."

Lacey said she also had contacted Bob Schwemm and Calvin Bradford, two experts on disparate impact, but they were unable to conduct the study.

While Cann said it was unknown yet what the city's liability was, he said it still had a commitment to fair housing.

"We have no opinion as to whether the city might be liable for a disparate impact violation as a result of approving the zoning change because we can't tell from your email the extent to which the zoning change might facilitate college actions resulting in displacement and loss of affordable housing," Cann wrote. "However, whether or not the city might be liable for a disparate impact violation, it's duty to affirmatively further fair housing would seem to be involved in the zoning decision."

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