Members of the audience erupted into applause last Tuesday night after the Lodi City Council voted to not rezone the old primary school for Top of Lodi LLC.
The property rezone has been a controversial topic for the city over the last few months as many residents have spoken out against the new owner of the building, expressing concerns for what may become of the old primary school.
The old primary school was planned to be rezoned from R-1 to C-3 at the City Council meeting May 21 but, through public comments, the council decided to send it back to the Economic Development Committee for further public input before officially deciding the rezone.
The new owner, Duane Steinhauer, was looking to have the property rezoned so he could begin advertising the space to potential businesses. The City Council initially turned down his rezone on March 5 because they wanted to see a plan for the site before changing the zoning for a buyer.
Many local residents near the property have spoken at City of Lodi and Lodi School Board meetings about their concerns for what type of businesses Steinhauer might bring to the area. Steinhauer has told the city he is not able to advertise the property to potential businesses until it is rezoned.
At the Economic Development Committee meeting July 16, Steinhauer addressed the audience at the meeting and said his plans to repurpose the building will depend on the tenants.
He said the Third Terrace park area of the property has not been part of the plan to be rezoned because of deed restrictions on the property that limits its usage. It was noted in the original 1964 warranty deed from the city that the land has restrictions on it to make it limited to a park, playground, arboretum, nature study and other directly related uses.
According to the minutes, he claimed that all of his property is available for sale but asked “who would want the property after they see the treatment they receive from the city?”
Chairperson Peter Tonn said his issue with the rezone was Steinhauer had no plans for improving the property and would be utilizing a “turnkey approach.” He said he wanted to see architectural plans before the rezoning could be recommended.
From the May City Council meeting through July 23, Steinhauer provided no additional plans for the building.
“With all the conversations and meetings that have taken place, the fact that there’s been no change in the application concerns me,” Alderperson Ann Groves-Lloyd said. “I feel like comments haven’t been heard by the owner of the property. He knows, he’s well aware of the stake here if this does not pass.”
By Wisconsin state statutes, Top of Lodi LLC is not able to request another rezone for one year.
“Thank you all,” Groves-Lloyd told the audience. “We will work together moving forward.”
In other business coming from the Plan Commission, the City Council voted not to approve a conditional use permit at 325 Lodi Street to operate an automotive repair service business.
Alderperson Rich Stevenson said there was a lot of concern from the public putting a mechanics garage near an R-1 zone.
“It was deemed it was not a right fit,” he said.
However, Stevenson said he would love to see the owners at the property, Joe and Libby Newport, start a business in town because “they seem so energetic.” Groves-Lloyd recommended having the Economic Development Committee reach out to them to see if they can partner in some way.
The council also approved a conditional use permit for a mural that will be placed on the old bank at 108 Lodi Street.
Mayor Jim ness said the new owner, Nathan Gindt, was concerned the mural may impact the value of the building. However, the agreement to have the mural on the building is only valid for as long as Gindt is the owner.
The mural is planned to be moveable and will be done by Bernie’s Signs from Prairie du Sac. The building is scheduled to be painted before the mural goes up.
In addition to the City Council meeting, the new Lodi police officer Kyle McCarty was sworn into his position. He spent several years studying criminal justice in Platteville and also interned at the Lafayette County Sheriff’s Department.