Commission says vacate street for apartments

A piece of Fourth Avenue North should be given up by the city to support the creation of apartments in the former Phillips Middle School, the Fort Dodge Plan and Zoning Commission recommended Tuesday.

Commission members voted to recommend that Fourth Avenue North between 10th and 11th streets be vacated by action of the City Council.

That section of road is on the south side of the old school at 1015 Fifth Ave. N.

The street would no longer be owned or maintained by the city government if the council votes to vacate it. However, the impact of that change on traffic in the neighborhood is expected to be minimal, according to Carissa Miller, the associate city planner. She said that the street was closed to traffic whenever school was in session.

Stephanie Houk Sheetz, the senior city planner, said she doesn’t foresee the new owners putting gates on the street or otherwise blocking traffic on it.

If the street is vacated, its north half would be owned by Foutch Brothers LLC, the Kansas City. Mo., company that proposes to convert the school into apartments. The south half would be owned by Holy Trinity Parish, which plans to buy the school’s gymnasium, which is in a separate building.

Shawn Foutch, a representative of Foutch Brothers LLC, told the commission that his company would repave the street.

The company wants the north side of the street to provide parking for the apartments. About 20 parking stalls could be created there.

Foutch Brothers LLC proposes to create 67 apartments in the former school in an $8.3 million project.

The company also proposes to turn the former Fair Oaks Middle School, 416 S. 10th St., into apartments. It has an option to buy both buildings from the Fort Dodge Community School District for $1. That option expires Dec. 17.

Both schools were replaced by the new middle school at 10th Avenue North and 32nd Street that opened this year.

Foutch Brothers is also asking the city government for property tax abatements and zoning variances, including a variance from the rule that requires one parking space for every unit in an apartment building. However, the potential for vacating a portion of Fourth Avenue North was the only issue before the commission Tuesday.

Commission member Lisa Wilson was absent and commission member Jim Kesterson abstained from the otherwise unanimous vote to recommend vacating the street. He said he abstained from the vote because his company, Kesterson Appraisals and Consulting, was involved in the sale of the property.

The final decision on vacating the street will be made by the City Council.