Posted Online: May 15, 2013, 6:45 pm
Fareway files papers for Audubon rezoning
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By Eric Timmons, firstname.lastname@example.org
Fareway officials submitted an application Wednesday to have the Audubon School site rezoned so it can build a grocery store on the property.
Fareway has yet to buy the former elementary school from the Rock Island/Milan School District for the agreed price of $475,000 but recently extended its option to purchase the property until August.
The application from the Iowa-based retailer to rezone the site for commercial use will go to Rock Island's planning commission on June 4, according to Jeff Eder, the city's economic development director.
The commission will vote on the application to rezone and make a recommendation to the city council, which makes the final decision.
Former mayoral candidate David Levin sits on the planning commission and also is the real estate agent representing Fareway on the property.He will not vote on June 4 but said he will speak before the vote in favor of the zoning change.
At Monday's city council meeting, aldermen voted 6-1 to overturn a decision by the Rock Island Preservation Commission to assign landmark status to the old school.
Mr. Levin said Fareway was pleased by the council's decision."The community has spoken very loudly and clearly that they want a grocery store," he said.
However, there was little evidence of that support from the public at the council meeting, where more than a dozen people spoke against the plan to demolish Audubon.
Residents who want to save the old school have launched a website to protest plans to demolish the building, and the page has 214 supporters. Some also have posted messages of protest on Fareway's social media page.
Ald. Kate Hotle, 5th Ward, provided the sole vote against repealing landmark status for Audubon at Monday's meeting. She said an overwhelming majority of calls from residents of the 5th Ward, where the building is located, want the building preserved.
Ald. David Conroy, 2nd Ward, pointed out at the meeting that the last time the city intervened to save an old school it did not end well.
The city bought the former Lincoln School in 2007 for $53,000, and, when no plan to redevelop it came forth, paid more than $444,000 to demolish the building last year.
Rock Island school officials are hoping the sale to Fareway goes through.
School district superintendent Mike Oberhaus said keeping Audubon empty and maintaining the grounds costs the district $30,000 a year.
The building closed as a school in 2010, and Mr. Oberhaus said no offers were received for the building in the two years it was on the market before Fareway expressed interest.
Calls to Fareway's corporate communications in Boone, Iowa, were not returned on Wednesday.