Midlanders use Westside Plan to oppose business in residential zone

       A proposal to put a commercial business back into the now-vacant warehouse at Market and Broadway streets in the Midland area was stymied by the Colorado Springs Planning Commission Sept. 8.
       The proposal by Affordable Plumbing and Heating lost on a 5-3 vote and is being appealed to City Council by business owners Greg and Heidi Smith.
       The denial followed objections from two Midland-area residents and Rose and Bob Kliewer, board members of the Organization of Westside Neighbors (OWN). Ano-ther Midland-area couple had written the city beforehand that they were not opposed.
       According to city information, the 3,200-square-foot warehouse sits on a nearly half-acre property at 1304 Market Street. It had been occupied by an auto repair shop starting in 1961, when it was a commercial zone in the county. The use was grandfathered when the city annexed that part of the Midland area in 1971 (zoning the site residential) and continued until the garage closed a few years ago. Last year the city approved a square-dance facility there, but it never opened for business, according to city information.
       City Planner Rachel Teixeira had recommended approval, noting in a written statement that “the change from a repair garage use to a plumbing and heating shop is a less intense use in the neighborhood,” and would not be at odds with the “existing Midland residential character.”
       In their justification to the city, the Smiths noted that there would be no retail-customer traffic and the warehouse would be subdivided into storage, office space and a garage. The plan also calls for installing sidewalks (none exist now) in front of the building on Broadway and Market, landscaping on those sides of the property and a fence to hide the parking lot behind the building. There would be four or five employees.
       One of the Midland-area opponents, Marty Miller, has been a neighborhood advocate in past years and worked with the city in developing the Westside Plan, a 1980 city ordinance that calls for “preserving and encouraging new residential development” in the Midland area and frowns on warehouses in general.
       For Bob Kliewer, the Westside Plan was also key to his opposition. “Putting a commercial business in a residential zone is not a good idea,” he said.
       Complicating matters for City Council is that, under the “Midland Area” section of the plan, one of the objectives is to incorporate “compatible non-residential uses.”
       Mark Cun-ningham, a Westside businessman who sits on the Planning Commission, joined the minority vote for the application. “It was a commercial use when the Westside Plan was drawn up,” he said, “and the applicant was trying to make it look better and not be a detriment to the neighborhood.”
       From a “technical” standpoint, he conceded, it is true that the grandfathered commercial use had expired. How-ever, he said, “Right down the street you have Murphy (Con-structors, a buil-ding company) and within a few blocks are industrial uses.”
       In Miller's written comments to the city, she stated, “My friends and I worked on this Midland area for over 25 years to upgrade it from a mixture of horses, garage repair, junk yards and welding… No, we don't want business mixed with our residential.”
       Another concern for Kliewer was that if the city grants Affordable Plumbing a legal nonconforming use in the residential zone, “it goes with the property. If they moved out, there would be no control over what came in next. You could have a salvage yard.”
       He said that he and Rose were representing the OWN board. The board members had taken a position against the application in a phone poll, he said.
       “That's our thing with the city (which provides funding for OWN),” Kliewer said. “We're supposed to represent the neighbors.”
       It's rare for OWN to have to go to a Planning Commission meeting, he added. More typically, when any opposition comes up early in the process, applicants hold neighborhood meetings to try to work out differences, but that did not occur in this case.
       Greg Smith, contacted after the meeting, said he could not comment, on the advice of his attorney. The business has existed in the city for 27 years.

Westside Pioneer article