The Carbondale Observer

News and commentary about Carbondale, Illinois and SIUC

Northwest Neighborhood Meeting Monday January 16

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There is a neighborhood meeting scheduled for Monday to discuss the pending sale of the old National Guard Armory at Oakland and Sycamore. The meeting will be held from 7:00 -8:30 p.m. at Hickory Lodge (1115 W. Sycamore St.) Newly appointed city manager Kevin Baity will be on hand to answer questions and hear concerns.

I’m short on time tonight so I can’t spend too much time on this. The Armory sale is another situation where our zoning laws could produce a less than optimal outcome. I’m looking at the zoning map (pdf) and it looks to me like it’s zoned either R-1-8 or R-1-8D. You can click the links to see what is and is not allowed in these districts.

The old Armory building is attractive, and we don’t build them that way anymore. I’d hate to see it torn down, which is the standard practice with beautiful old buildings in Carbondale. But our code doesn’t really allow uses that would be appropriate for the building. The best use allowed in any R-1 district would be a church (which is a special use). But that’s hardly the best use imaginable for the property.

We have a couple of options. The city could possibly rezone that lot. The southwest side of Oakland and Sycamore is zoned R-3, which has a wider range of uses. It would be possible to imagine other possible zoning designations for the property. The other option would be to amend code in some way that would permit the property to be used.

What’s certain is that it won’t be used as a single family residence, which – unless I’m mistaken – is how it’s zoned. The best proposed use I’ve heard for the property is for Carbondale Main Street to use it as a year-round, indoor farmer’s market. Maybe it could be converted for condos or apartments. I’m sure there are other good uses too. But few or none of them are allowed in an R-1 district.

One other potential problem occurs to me. Unless I’m mistaken, there are underground fuel tanks on the property. That would make the site a brownfield and expose the new owner to potential liability issues. I doubt there is anything the city can do about that problem. I’m going to plead ignorance of state brownfield laws. Some states have incentives to clean up brownfields that limit the liability of owners after a successful cleanup. I don’t know if Illinois has such laws.

I suspect some of these issues will come up at Monday’s meeting. If you like old buildings and don’t want to see the Armory torn down, maybe you can spare an hour and a half on Monday evening. Unless we find a use for this building, it will eventually be razed.

Comments are welcome.

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Written by The Carbondale Observer

January 13, 2012 at 7:45 am

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