News From Terre Haute, Indiana

Local & Bistate

April 16, 2014

Zoning Appeals Board grants alley variance for ISU downtown housing building

TERRE HAUTE — A unanimous vote from the Terre Haute Board of Zoning Appeals on Wednesday cleared the way for foundation work to start on the construction of a new five-story building to house Indiana State University students, a restaurant and retail shops at 500 Wabash Ave.

With a zoning variance granted, Paul Thrift, president of Thompson Thrift Development Inc., said he expects to get foundation permits within two weeks, then “hopefully start on the actual building in the next 30 to 40 days.”

The building design plans, Thrift said, have been preliminarily reviewed and submitted to the city, “and we are still in the final phase of completing those and working through that.”

At the rear of the building project, city zoning requires the building to be 11 feet from the center of a public east-west alley between North Fifth and North Sixth streets. That means the new building must be at least 3 feet from the edge of the alley.

The board, in a special meeting, approved a request for a zero lot line setback.

The building’s west end wing will actually be 2 feet, 1 inch from the alley. The building’s east side wing will rest 4 feet, 2 inches from the required setback from the alley.

“That is farther away from the property lines than the original buildings that sat there, so we are actually improving the alley access from what it was with the old buildings that sat there previously,” Thrift said after the board meeting.

“We worked very diligently to comply with the spirit and letter of the [zoning district]. This was the only variance that we needed, and so now we are able to move forward with the construction of the building as designed,” Thrift said.

Ben Orman, an owner of a building near the project, in early April filed remonstrances with the Board of Zoning Appeals against the project. The first was against the zero-line setback.

He also contends the building will impede visibility at the intersection of Fifth Street and Wabash Avenue and contends the project must apply for a special use exception for off-street parking or loading.

Orman objected that the board did not address the remonstrance issues in the special meeting. Board president Steve Pontius said the board was addressing only the request for the zero lot setback in the special meeting.

Pontius said the building design plans are preliminary and have not been approved.

Orman contended that “the variation, if granted, will indeed alter the character of the downtown, because, with no alley setback, this building will be making a narrow alley even more narrow and dangerous,” he told the board.

In a letter sent Monday to the board, city attorney Chou-il Lee addressed issues raised by Orman.

Lee said the project is in zoning that requires new construction be built with Wabash Avenue as the front of the property line, and new construction is to be set on the front property line.

“This construction must have a ‘zero’ setback from Wabash Avenue. [City code] provides that if the building is on corner intersections, the other facades must comply with the frontage requirements of C-8,” Lee stated in the April 14 letter.

Also, because the C-9 district zoning regulations require zero lot lines at corner intersections, visibility at intersections do not apply, Lee said in the letter.

Lee also stated city code provides that off-street parking is not required in the C-8 or C-9 districts.

If there is off-street parking or loading areas, “they must be located behind the building they serve. The argument that the petitioner must apply for a special use for off-site parking is invalid,” Lee stated.

Orman declined further comment after the meeting.

Reporter Howard Greninger can be reached at 812-231-4204 or howard.

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