The Guthrie Planning Commission recommended not to issue a special permit to allow construction of a multi-family development in a downtown historic building. Now, the development group has asked to suspend talks indefinitely.
On June 9, Commissioners Ed French, Vern Ogden and Doug Powell denied the special use permit (3-0), which ultimately was going to be decided by the city council in their next meeting. Commissioners Joe Chappell and Joe Coffin were absent.
The Bywater Development Group applied for the special use permit for the State Capital Publishing Co. building located at 301 W. Harrison Ave. The group was in the early stages of purchasing the historic building and renovating the building into a 32 affordable senior housing units. Related article: Negotiations to redevelop historic Guthrie building begin
On Tuesday, the City announced their staff received an email from Bywater’s legal representative requesting the item be tabled until further notice.
According to the group’s website, the Bywater Development Group specializes in developing, planning, financing, and implementing transformative affordable housing developments throughout the mid-western and southern regions of the United States.
At the June 9 public meeting, downtown business owner Lynn Bilodeau and Guthrie resident Dan Ladd spoke against the low-income apartments. The primary concern for Bilodeau was the lack of parking and the risk of residents and visitors taking up parking spots from customers.
Bywater Development Group’s CEO, David Dodson, flew in from St. Louis for the planning meeting and said he knew parking was going to be obstacle.
“We know the present parking scenario is not adequate for adding 32 new units of residential housing in the downtown area. We know we have to solve that problem.”
Dodson told the commissioners the $6 million rehabilitation of the building, that his group has in place, could not be supported by a local restaurant or a retail establishment.
“The truth of the matter is that the building is in pretty desperate condition in many ways. It’s going to cost a fortune to make it viable for any use, but for some of these special financing kinds of incentives that we are able to access through the affordable housing programs,” Dodson said.
“Our plan is a complete historic rehabilitation to build from top to bottom. We believe we provide a once in a lifetime opportunity to truly preserve this building for the next century.”
After several minutes of discussion, Commissioner Ogden said he was not sure the board had enough information to make a reliable, well-thought out decision, but a recommendation was needed for the city council meeting on June 21.
“If we are not forwarded on for council action by the end of this month we don’t even have anything to talk about,” Dodson said. “That may be okay with you (commissioners), it’s probably okay with some of the folks (audience members against the apartments) over here, but we would love for you to agree with us that our plan is solid enough that its worth giving us a shot.”
Should the application be tabled, a notice and mailing identifying a public hearing will be sent out to property owners within 300 feet as well as local news outlets with at least 21 days notice of the item being placed on the city council agenda.
Below is the video of the planning commission meeting. The topic at hand begins at 1:15.