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Cedar Falls Zoning Amendment One Step Closer

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CEDAR FALLS, Iowa City officials are one step closer to adopting a new controversial zoning amendment. The policy would ban property owners from converting existing single family homes into multiple dwelling units, like apartments.

Wednesday evening, the city's planning and zoning commission approved the amendment and will now pass it on to the city council.
The first draft of the amendment looked to restrict conversions in every city district. City officials said the fear was too many conversions in a particular neighborhood could change its character.

"You'd have parking issues. You might have to put a parking lot on the backyard, perhaps. So you're paving on a yard area, then that can translate into storm water runoff issues," said Martin Ryan, the Cedar Falls city planner.

Mark Miller, a Cedar Falls resident who sat in Wednesday night's public hearing, supported the amendment. He said he was concerned home conversions could reduce property values.

"Homeowners move into a neighborhood that is single family. They expect that to stay that way," said Miller.

Opponents to the ban said it limits the rights of property owners. Chris Wernimont said he felt the city's amendment was suggesting multi-unit homes were a bad thing.

"You're basically saying the population that can't afford, a place like the Meadows, a $200,000 home- 'Well if you can't afford it. You can't live here'," said Wernimont.

After public comments, the planning and zoning commission decided to limit the reach of the amendment. Instead of banning home conversions in all districts, the policy now calls for a ban in just those zoned one and two family residential.

Conversions would still be allowed in all other districts that are zoned multiple family, many of which sit near the UNI school campus.

The next step will be the city council's, which has to approve the amendment before it takes effect.