When Davenport aldermen take up the final reading of the ordinance creating the Elmore Corners Overlay District at the next city council meeting, they likely will need to decide if one of the biggest developers in the area will be included in the district.
Alderman Richard Clewell, 6th Ward, has decided to go against the recommendation of the city’s Planning and Zoning Commission and offer a resolution that will include developer THF in the Elmore Corners Overlay District.
Since 2001, THF has been the major developer for many projects in the area, including Walmart, Dick's Sporting Goods, Hobby-Lobby and Field and Stream.
The company has asked the council to accept the Planning and Zoning Commission's recommendation to exclude THF from the district.
Representatives of THF has said that new requirements of the overlay district would change the design and building agreements that are now in place.
Changing those specifications would place a financial burden on THF in that companies may not decide to come based on the new overlay design specs.
Clewell announced his intentions Wednesday during the council's committee-of-the-while meeting.
Clewell said it has been nearly two decades since development began in the Elmore Corners area.
“I think it’s reasonable to believe that over time there would be additional requirements placed on those occupants of that area,” Clewell said.
“THF has been a good neighbor, there is no doubt about that,” he said. “But I believe that due the circumstances, due to the change in time, due to the commitment of the city for the vision for the future that the best thing to do would be to include THF in this resolution.”
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In addition to making the area attractive to businesses and shoppers as well as making it bicycle- and pedestrian-friendly, the overlay district will create new building design guidelines that will require buildings to “contribute to the Elmore Corners destination appearance,” according to the site plan drawn up by architectural and economic development firm of Vandewalle & Associates of Madison, Wisconsin.
The overlay is located on about 264 acres on the northeast side of Davenport at the intersection of interstates 80 and 74.
Alderman Ray Ambrose, 4th Ward, said he would not support Clewell’s resolution.
“I think that’s a horrible message to send businesses in our community, particularly for one that for 17 years has been an outstanding business partner with the city of Davenport,” Ambrose said. “It (THF) has been the economic engine to billions of dollars of economic impact and construction to our great city.
“When government starts to over regulate businesses it sends a very negative message and they (THF) have made a very compelling case why they request that (staying out of the Elmore Corners Overlay District). The zoning commission supports it.”
Alderman Rita Rawson, 5th Ward, said, “I actually agree with Alderman Ambrose.”
“I’m usually a proponent of raising the bar for everyone, but when I look at this particular situation I actually tend to agree with Planning and Zoning,” she said. THF has done “a very good job out there. It’s very professional looking.”
Where the bar does need to be raised is south of Locust Street, “where we have a lot of haphazard things happening,” she added.
Alderman Kyle Gripp, at large, said he does not see Clewell’s resolution as anti-business.
“I think we need to get away from creating places with humongous parking lots in front of them, and buildings that cannot be reused or repurposed and I think we need to have consistency in that corridor,” Gripp said.
“It’s not much to ask them (THF) to go the extra length,” he said.