Mar 5, 2021 - News

Des Moines rezoning project becomes nightmare for dozens of homeowners

Homes along E. 21st Street in Des Moines were rezoned as industrial in 2019. Photo: Jason Clayworth/Axios

Dozens of DSM homes were rezoned from residential to industrial two years ago and now multiple property owners are having a slew of problems.

Why it matters: Homes in industrial zones often can't obtain city permits to be properly fixed or modernized after a disaster.

  • And selling them is tough because banks don't want to approve home loans in industrial zones, a city councilperson, a neighborhood president and the head of a nonprofit housing agency separately told Axios.
  • Making matters worse, the homes are among the most affordable in the city and are critically important to lower-income families.

Flashback: Des Moines approved in 2016 what it calls "PlanDSM," a map for how the city will evolve for the year 2040 and beyond regarding things like transportation, parks and neighborhoods.

  • New zoning was approved in October 2019 as part of it.
  • About four dozen homes in the Fairmont Park, Martin Luther King Jr. Park and Chesterfield neighborhoods flipped to industrial classifications.
  • Most homeowners didn’t realize what the changes meant to their properties or weren’t fully informed, Councilperson Linda Westergaard told Jason.

The state of play: The city council was asked to allow new garage construction and limited home expansions at its most recent regular meeting.

  • It unanimously approved the amendments, but the homes' zoning hasn't changed.
  • That means lending difficulties still remain. And new home construction is still prohibited in those areas, Neighborhood Finance Corporation director Stephanie Murphy and Fairmont Park Neighborhood president Jeff Witte pointed out.

What’s next: Westergaard and Councilman Joe Gatto have called for a special public meeting. It had not been scheduled as of late yesterday.

  • Fairmont Park Neighborhood will discuss the issue during a meeting Tuesday, March 9 at 6pm at the Capitol Hill Christian Church, 3322 E 25th St.

This story first appeared in the Axios Des Moines newsletter, designed to help readers get smarter, faster on the most consequential news unfolding in their own backyard.


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