The current Davenport zoning issue for the old H&W property located on North Brady across from the Walnut Center is not so confusing when you strip away all the complexities involved and take a basic, common-sense approach. The Davenport City Council must decide if outside storage, rental, and sale of heavy industrial equipment is an appropriate use for that location. If not, then grant the petitioner's peculiar request for commercial zoning (C2), but with protective covenants that disallow any outside storage of heavy industrial equipment such as bulldozers, end loaders, 100-foot cranes, etc. If it decides it is appropriate, then the city council should deny the petitioner's request for C2 and request that it come back with a petition for industrial zoning (M1) that provides for such a use. Hopefully, the council will take into account that North Brady has re-developed into a low-impact commercial corridor, providing a more vibrant gateway in and out of Davenport. To spot-zone an industrial use in the middle of this commercial area would de-value surrounding property, create potential safety hazards, and generally detract from Davenport's image.

The request by the petitioners - including Altorfer (Caterpillar dealer of heavy industrial equipment), which has an offer to purchase the property - for C2 zoning is peculiar because the current C2 zoning ordinance restricts any storage or heavy industrial equipment. However, the dirty pool being played here is that the petitioners are simultaneously appealing to the Zoning Board of Adjustments (ZBA) - a citizen-based group comprised of Ken Hopper, Wayne Hammes, Bill Holgerson, Mark Forester, and Gary Klienschmidt - asking it to change the C2 ordinance to allow the outside storage of heavy industrial equipment. This would not only allow such storage at H&W's Brady Street location, but also for any property zoned C2 throughout the entire city of Davenport. Remarkably, the ZBA appears to be inclined to grant the appeal, allowing for such storage, based on cronyism. The next couple of weeks will prove critical in this matter.

The petitioners maintain that they have no intention of storing heavy industrial equipment on the H&W property; therefore, they should not be subject to any protective covenants. But 57 percent of the neighboring property owners are not convinced. They are insisting on protective covenants and are asking the council to follow the Plan & Zoning Commission's (PZC) recommendation to include them in C2 zoning for the property. If the petitioners have no intention of implementing outside storage, then why not put it in writing and satisfy the protesting neighbors? Why would the petitioners object to the protections unless they were indeed intending such storage once the zoning was secured by the council, and the appeal was granted by the ZBA?

That is the $60 question. Substantial evidence points to the petitioners having every intention of using the property for their sale and rental operations of heavy industrial equipment, just as they do with their other operations in Iowa and Illinois. There is absolutely no reason for the neighbors to think otherwise, especially when the petitioners are unwilling to put it in writing that they will not engage in such storage. Anything else is empty rhetoric.

While the petitioners, attorneys Schalk and Polaschek, and realtor John Ruhl continue to deny the intention of Altorfer to store its heavy equipment outside as flatly untrue, the facts say otherwise. During the last ZBA meeting, Altorfer was asked to put photos of the various pieces of heavy industrial equipment they carry on the overhead projector. The board went through the photographs one by one, asking Altorfer whether each was intended to be stored on the property. Altorfer confirmed at least eight of the approximately 10 to 12 pieces of large industrial equipment listed. How much more evidence is required than this? The above-mentioned folks' steadfast denial of such intended use is unconscionable.

Meanwhile, the petitioners are willing to sacrifice the entire city's C2 zoning, and should the city council and/or the ZBA approve the proposed new use for C2, it will be for the benefit of a single property owner at the expense of an entire community's interests. This is an abuse of power so extreme that the courts will necessarily become involved. It is important to remember that citizens can petition all manner of absurdities, but it is our elected and appointed officials who permit special interests' narrow agendas to prevail - or not.

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