COLUMBIA — The owners of two neighboring properties in East Campus are asking that they be rezoned to allow an additional tenant.
Right now, the properties at 1405 and 1407 Bouchelle Ave. are zoned as R-1, single-family, which allows only three people not related by blood or marriage to live under one roof. MRZ Properties, which owns 1405 Bouchelle, and Hartman-Baker, which owns 1407, want an R-2 designation, which would allow four unrelated people to live together.
The request is on the Columbia City Council's agenda Monday evening for first reading, so no discussion or action will occur. The matter comes before the council after the Planning and Zoning Commission split 4-4 over whether to recommend the request be approved.
Neighbors addressed the commission and sent in letters with the following concerns:
- The owners will tear down the houses and put a single duplex on the two lots, which is allowed under R-2 zoning.
- East Campus is too densely populated as it is, and adding more people will add more trash and noise.
- Parking problems will increase with the potential addition of two vehicles.
- The infrastructure of each house, mostly the sewers, cannot support the addition of another tenant.
- Rezoning would set a precedent for other investors to buy R-1 properties with the intention of rezoning it.
MRZ's Bonnie Zelenak said they have no intention of tearing down the two houses in favor of a duplex. The house at 1405 has been renovated and has three male MU students living there.
"We have put a lot of money and time into our investment," Zelenak said. "Our intention is to rent to four people maximum. We have no plans to do any combining."
MRZ bought the property last year, and it's the only one the corporation owns, Zelenak said. She said the corporation had the opportunity to buy both properties but decided against it.
"I can't imagine one person will make that much of a difference to the neighborhood," Zelenak said. "We rent to quality tenants. We do thorough background checks."
MRZ's Mel Zelenak, who is married to Bonnie Zelenak, said all but three properties on Bouchelle Avenue are zoned R-3, which allows for medium-density apartments.
MRZ originally sought R-3 zoning but scaled back as a response to neighborhood concerns.
Neighborhood concern arose at an April 27 meeting of the East Campus Neighborhood Association where members expressed frustration. It is their sense that more people live in some of the rental properties there than is allowed under the law.
Janet Hammen, referred to incorrectly as Janet Hammond in documents sent to the council, urged people to e-mail her with information on illegal tenants and other zoning concerns. She opposes MRZ and Hartman-Baker's rezoning request.
"There's 42 other properties in the R-3 part of the neighborhood that down zoned to R-1," Hammen, newly elected chairwoman of the neighborhood association, said at the association meeting. "As soon as these two houses go to R-2, eventually every other one of those are going to ask. That adds more people, more noise, more trash."
Planning Commissioner Stephen Reichlin supported the rezoning request at the commission's meeting April 21. He said his thinking was that most of the properties near the ones at issue are zoned R-2 and R-3.
"It seemed reasonable," Reichlin said. "It seemed appropriate for the area."
Reichlin said a tie vote doesn't happen often on the commission. The group received five letters opposing the rezoning from members of East Campus neighborhood, all of which are included in the information going to the council.