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Neighbors win zoning challenge

Residents of Straub Court, a small downtown townhome project, won in their efforts to get more open space in a large condominium project to be built next door.

Straub has 14, three-story townhomes in the 300 block of Fourth Avenue N.

At the end of the block, Allard Investment Realty wants to build a 20-story, mixed-used project that will have 70 units. Included will be retail space on the ground floor, four levels of parking, a floor of amenities for residents and 14 floors of residences.

In letters to city development officials, residents appealed the developer's plans, saying the Allard project was too large and too dense.

They challenged zoning rules allowing the developer to get higher density in exchange for including open space in the project. The open space was bounded by three walls and partially covered.

"If we have come to the point in our downtown development where inclusion of a concrete cave covered by four stories of parking garage counts as "open space," we have started down a slippery slope that is good for neither our residents nor our city," said Joann Schulz, president of the Straub Court Homeowners Association, in remarks prepared for the city's Board of Adjustment last week.

The board agreed with the Straub residents and required Allard to make at least 25 percent of the designated open space open to the sky.

That means some redesign of the project at 401 Fourth St. N before it is submitted to the city's Environmental Development Commission for review. It was ready to go before the EDC when residents appealed the plans. It then went to the Board of Adjustment.

"It's not a big trick or a deal breaker for me," said C. Randolph Wedding, architect for the project.

He said he is redesigning the floor that acts as the cover for the open space. "Everything is pretty much the same. We gained a parking space. It meets all the criteria I know of," Wedding said.

The Board of Adjustment decision came within days of the deadline to refile for the EDC for review in March. As a result, Allard decided to wait until the April meeting to resubmit its project, Wedding said.