Gluba vetoes rezoning for St. Ambrose sports complex, tax rebates for The Dock

Originally Posted Online: July 16, 2014, 5:57 pm
Last Updated: July 16, 2014, 9:46 pm
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By Kevin Smith,

DAVENPORT — Mayor Bill Gluba on Wednesday night blocked plans for a $25 million St. Ambrose University sports complex and a $12 million riverside restaurant and commercial complex.

St. Ambrose wants to rezone 31 acres of 45 acres at 800 W. Central Park Ave., the former St. Vincent's Center property, for a sports complex that would include a 2,500-seat football stadium, a 500-space parking lot, a soccer field, a softball diamond and other athletic fields.

The rezoning request, which irked some nearby homeowners, narrowly passed the city council by a vote of 6-4 last week. On Wednesday, Mayor Gluba vetoed that action, citing safety concerns and neighborhood and environmental impacts as the main factors for his decision.

Council members plan to vote on overriding the mayor's veto at 5 p.m. July 23. Overriding the veto will require approval by a two-thirds majority of aldermen.

"In my judgment, the presence of a spectator football stadium, such as St. Ambrose proposes to build, would likely so disrupt the quality of life in these desirable neighborhoods," Mayor Gluba said. "It would, over time, result in the gradual deterioration and devaluation of these homes in which residents have invested a lifetimes' worth of care and money."

Lighting, noise and traffic would be a nuisance to the neighborhood, he said.

St. Ambrose put its long-term relationship with the community in "jeopardy," Mayor Gluba said, when it set the project's boundaries. That decision, he said, made it "impossible for those (affected) residents to reach the 20 percent rate of objection necessary to require the approval of three-fourths of the members of the council."

Intentional or not, he said, St. Ambrose's action amounted gerrymandering.

"A football stadium in this residential neighborhood certainly does not add to the city's economic base, since no other commercial establishments -- such as restaurants, stores or motels -- would be permitted," Mayor Gluba said.

He said he is prepared to work with St. Ambrose to find a more suitable location — not in a residential neighborhood — for a university football stadium.

Ald. Barney Barnhill, 5th Ward, said the mayor's veto reflected the values of the surrounding neighborhoods. Ald. Barnhill voted against the rezoning measure and has said storm water run-off concerns have not been adequately addressed.

Like the mayor, he said nearby residents were "cut out" of the process by St. Ambrose's decision not to seek rezoning for the 45-acre property in its entirety.

Mike Poster, vice president of finance at St. Ambrose, said he was disappointed in the mayor's decision.

"We have met the requirements of the ordinance," Mr. Poster said, adding St. Ambrose has had support from city officials in the weeks leading to the vote.

Also on Wednesday, Mayor Gluba vetoed an economic development agreement aldermen approved last week to help Raufeisen Development for The Dock at Davenport project.

Aldermen had voted to rebate up to $3.6 million to the firm over 15 years for a 37,916-square-foot, three-floor building with a 60-space parking level ground floor at 125 Perry St., the site of the former Dock restaurant.

The first floor would include a restaurant, with office space on the second floor and a banquet room on the third. Other features would include a transparent curved facade facing the river, a roof terrace, a river terrace and a public promenade.

Mayor Gluba said he agreed with the findings of the Davenport Levee Improvement Commission, that the agreement does not follow the spirit of the original River Vision Plan. He argued later commercial developments were viewed as "potential eyesores" and that the project could restrict public access to the river's edge.

A vote to override Mayor Gluba's veto of the agreement also could come at the July 23 meeting.

Aldermen also plan to discuss Mayor Gluba's desire to bring illegal immigrants to Davenport.

On Monday, the mayor met with representatives of local organizations to discuss possible locations to hold undocumented immigrants, many of whom are children. Ald. Bill Edmond, 2nd Ward, on Wednesday asked that aldermen discuss that proposal at the July 23 city council meeting. 

Ald. Edmond said he wanted to ensure Davenport would have no staffing or financial obligations for the initiative. Mayor Gluba has said the initiative would fully rely on federal funding.

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