Board grants variances

A parking plan needed for the conversion of the former Phillips Middle School into an apartment building was approved Tuesday by the Fort Dodge Board of Adjustment.

The plan grants the company proposing the apartments, Foutch Brothers LLC, of Kansas City, Mo., a variance from the rule that requires one offstreet parking space for each of the 67 apartments planned for the old school at 1015 Fifth Ave. N.

”Obviously, it’s a unique circumstance,” board member Matt Johnson said.

While awarding the variance, the board imposed two conditions on the company.

First, board members directed it to negotiate an agreement with Holy Trinity Parish, which is buying the school’s gym and athletic fields, that would allow the use of eight parking spaces on the church property for apartment residents.

The board also directed the company to negotiate a lease with the city government allowing it to use public right of way in front of the school for parking. Vehicles have been parked on that right-of-way for decades, and to the casual observer the area appears to be a parking lot for the building. There is room for 22 to 24 vehicles there, according to Stephanie Houk Sheetz, the senior city planner.

Fulfilling the board’s conditions would provide 67 parking spaces for the building.

In addition to the spots on the church property and in front of the school, the available parking would include 22 slots on the north side of Fourth Avenue North behind the school. Last week, the city’s Plan and Zoning Commission recommended that the City Council give up the local government’s ownership of that road between 10th and 11th avenues. If that is done, the north side of the road would become the property of Foutch Brothers and the south side would become the property of Holy Trinity Parish. The eight parking spaces Foutch Brothers was directed to secure from the parish may be on the south side of Fourth Avenue North.

Also, there is a parking lot on the southeast corner of the school property that can accomodate 15 vehicles, Houk Sheetz said.

The 15 slots in the parking lot and the planned 22 slots on Fourth Avenue North would be the only ones on Foutch Brothers property, which necessitated the variance.

Foutch Brothers will have to comply with one other parking requirement. Houk Sheetz said the city’s fire code requires a no parking zone for the full length of the building on one side to ensure emergency access. She said the North 10th Street side would be the most likely spot for the no parking zone.

The board voted unaimously to approve the variance.

Before they voted, however, board members heard from an individual concerned about parking in the area.

Mike McCarville said the apartment proposal would yield 124 bedrooms in the building which he said will equate to ”a whole lot more than 67 cars.”

”I just think there’s going to be problems with parking density in the neighborhood,” he said.

”I’d love to see the project happen,” he added. ”We need the housing.”

Foutch Brothers LLC has an option to buy both the former Phillips Middle School and the former Fair Oaks Middle School, 416 S. 10th St., from the Fort Dodge Community School District for $1. That option expires Dec. 17. The company plans to convert both buildings into apartments.

The parking variance and the acquisition of part of Fourth Avenue North are among a handful of measures the company is seeking from the local government for the project. It is also asking for a total of $2 million woth of tax abatements or tax increment financing rebates and enterprise zone tax credits.