January 30, 2023

Newton City Council approved the rezoning of a vacant property at 1404 First Ave. W. from arterial commercial to one- and two-family residential in January, and on Sept. 19 approved a preliminary plat for a seven-lot subdivision on the same land. (Christopher Braunschweig)
Eight months after the city rezoned the vacant property next to the Newton school district’s transportation facility, council members on Sept. 19 approved the preliminary plat to add a seven-lot subdivision on the land. But a citizen who raised questions over the rezoning was quick to return to share his concerns.
Craig Decker, of Newton, asked about progress of the traffic safety committee’s analysis of the neighborhood’s on-street parking, the developer’s plan to have 150 trucks worth of fill dirt, the proposed timeline to develop the lots and what is stopping the city or developer from turning the lots into Section 8 housing.
The proposed subdivision is located in the 1400 block of First Avenue West, near the intersection of U.S. Route 6 and U.S. Highway 14. The subdivision is essentially a replatting of six lots and an old vacated right-of-way from Leepers Highland Addition. It is currently zoned R-2, one- and two-family residential.
Newton Community Development Director Erin Chambers addressed those four main concerns about what has come to be known as the Stelpflug Addition. With the way the subdivision is platted right now, a builder could theoretically build houses on those underlying lot lines.
However, the current developer did not care for the arrangement because it ended up with very narrow lots. While preliminary plat is not increasing the lots, Chambers argued there is a functional increase. For a number of years, the property was a single house with a large yard.
“So certainly it would indicate a change in function for the neighborhood,” Chambers said. “At the planning and zoning commission (meeting), the concerns about traffic were heard, in particular the concern was about on-street. Currently, right now, parking is allowed on both sides of the road.”
It was the commission’s request the city’s traffic safety committee — a group of on-staff engineers and the city engineer who analyze and study traffic matters — do a future analysis of the on-street parking in the neighborhood as the property becomes further developed.
Chambers said there would be no reason to take a look at the parking requirements until the first houses were built and driveways can be located.
“It’s difficult to analyze parking, on-street parking and those sorts of things without knowing where those driveways are going to be,” she said. “And that will happen at the time of building permit. Certainly, if you had seven new homes on a street it does merit a review and we have noted that.”
Also to note: The driveways will have to reside along West 15th Street Place North rather than First Avenue West. Previous property owners signed a permanent easement to the Iowa Department of Transportation waiving all rights to a driveway along First Avenue West/U.S. Route 6.
When it comes to the fill dirt, Chambers said there will be some regrading of the property. That being said on the rear end of the property there is going to be a 40-foot-wide drainage easement. The project “does not negatively impact” any stormwater drainage from the neighborhood.
“Development is required to kind of ‘keep their problems,’ so when you add new paving, when you add new houses — whether it’s through a site plan or a subdivision — those projects have to be engineered so as not to cause runoff on your neighbors or to cause a backup problem,” Chambers said.
The plan also meets the city’s engineering standards.
Timeline for completion is tricky. Approving the preliminary plat is the first step of the process, which was done so by council members in a 4-0 vote. After the preliminary plat, there is a final plat. The preliminary plat tells council how it wants to build something, which in this case is a subdivision.
“Once you get approval for that you got out and build it, then you return to the planning and zoning commission and city council to show that you built your subdivision in accordance with the preliminary plat, and you seek final plat approval,” Chambers said.
Only after the public improvements are constructed and accepted by public works, a final play can be presented to officials.
When the final plat is approved, that is what creates the lots that are for sale. Until that time there are not really lots to be sold and recorded at the Jasper County Recorder’s Office. Chambers said there will be another review process following the grading work on this property.
In reference to Decker’s inquiry on Section 8 housing, Chambers said the city cannot discriminate housing types and who lives in those houses. Typically, subdivisions or developments do not have low-income housing assistance unless they are receiving other tax credits from the state government.
Newton has not had any applications for low- to moderate-income assistance by the developer, either locally or at the state level, Chambers said.
“While I can’t predict and can’t speak to that, I can say as of this date there hasn’t been any movement on the part of the developer to seek Section 8 housing vouchers or anything like that,” she said.
As a side note, Chambers clarified that Section 8 housing vouchers do not affect housing type. If a person is in need and demonstrates that need with the Central Iowa Regional Housing Authority (CIRHA), the housing authority gives them a voucher to cover the gap between their capability to pay and the actual rent.
“That is then paid to the property owner and is done in somewhat of a private nature,” Chambers said. “We don’t know where people live who have Section 8 vouchers. We don’t know where they live. Typically landlords cannot discriminate on the basis of that tenant paying with a Section 8 voucher.”
While the city does have a handful of public housing units, those are owned by CIRHA, which Chambers added has gotten out of the business of building their own units and use the vouchers. To that end, even if the City of Newton did know the housing would benefit folks with Section 8, they could not discriminate.
Contact Christopher Braunschweig at 641-792-3121 ext 560 or at cbraunschweig@newtondailynews.com
Christopher Braunschweig has a strong passion for community journalism and covers city council, school board, politics and general news in Newton, Iowa and Jasper County.
Copyright © 2022 Newton Daily News. All rights reserved. Published in Newton, Iowa, USA, by Shaw Media.
Copyright © 2022 Newton Daily News. All rights reserved. Published in Newton, Iowa, USA, by Shaw Media.

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