COLUMBIA — An unoccupied property across from Hickman High School, which has been the subject of neighborhood disapproval and repeated Columbia City Council and Planning and Zoning Commission hearings since 1996, was granted looser zoning restrictions early Tuesday.
Toward the end of a lengthy meeting, the council voted 6-1 to rezone a lot owned by Tom Kardon at Providence Road and Third Avenue. The action will allow additional uses for the building, including a beauty shop that has already signed a conditional five-year lease.
The property was previously zoned to only allow for an auto parts store, but Kardon requested rezoning because he could no longer afford to expand his auto parts business as planned. Kardon said he would like to be able to rent the property to a business so it will not remain vacant.
Mel Zelenak, an associate with Maly Commercial Realty who has been working with Kardon to find a tenant for building, said he first tried to find an auto parts business that was interested in expanding or moving but was unable to find an interested business.
Zelenak said he and Kardon then considered seeking alternate zoning and have arranged a lease to open a beauty shop in the building contingent upon the zoning allowing the operation of the business, which it now does.
When the Planning Commission made its recommendation on Oct. 8, it approved an alternative to Kardon’s request that would not allow a barber or beauty shop but allowed some office uses on the property, such as artists or dentists. The commission also recommended that hours of operation be restricted from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. to prevent traffic near the neighborhood in the evening.
The council approved the rezoning but did apply some of the other restrictions for use that the commission recommended, including the restriction on hours of operation.
Part of the council’s decision to expand possible uses for the building was based on the opportunity to have a business operating in the vacant building.
“The buildings been built, and it’s been sitting vacant,” First Ward Councilman Paul Sturtz said. “I think it needs to be of a slightly more liberal use than just artists, composers, ministers, dentists, seamstresses — I don’t know if that’s going to result in the place being rented out any time soon.”
Mayor Darwin Hindman proposed an attachment to the rezoning ordinance that added a condition that requires Kardon to implement a plan to add “high-level landscaping” to the site that must be approved by the council.
Pat Kelley, vice president of the Ridgeway Neighborhood Association, said the board does not support the rezoning because members would like there to be rules in place for any development along Providence Road. She said the association supports completing the Providence Road Corridor Plan, which began in 2005 and has not been completed.
“What I would like to see happen is actually an enforceable Providence corridor plan,” Kelley said.
She said that the neighborhood is concerned about weighing in on any development until they have the protections of a plan.
“We feel very vulnerable as a neighborhood,” Kelley said.
Kardon’s attorney, George Smith, said one issue raised before the Planning Commission was that people accused Kardon of using a “bait and switch” technique to have his property rezoned how he wanted it after investing in the building.
Kardon said that was not the case and cited examples of building the ceilings 14 feet high and adding a more expensive parking lot that are more suitable for an auto parts store than other commercial uses.
“I built the building for myself, not for somebody else,” he said.