Following the City Commission’s decision on the Woman’s Exchange loading zone, both the City and the Exchange have taken steps to address the situation. The Commission upheld the LPNA appeal on a 3-2 vote.
State law requires that a resolution citing the code be created whenever a project is turned down. City Attorney Bob Fournier had planned to bring that resolution to the City Commission on May 2, but instead he asked the Commission to address several zoning matters, making two suggestions which he felt might allow the Exchange to expand without building a loading zone on Rawls Avenue:
First, he suggested the City adopt LPNA’s interpretation of the code that the Exchange can continue to use their existing loading zone. City staff and the Exchange had argued the code required a new loading zone in the event of an expansion. During the hearings, LPNA pointed out that although the code requires adequate loading space for an expansion, the code does not explicitly require that loading space conform to all code requirements. The current Exchange loading zone is several feet short of current standards, but the City has allowed them to use it for many years because its use is “grandfathered in.”
Second, he has suggested that the designation of Orange south of Morrill be changed from “primary” to “secondary.” This would allow businesses on that street to access their property from Orange and allow greater flexibility in terms of design for buildings and parking areas. This could enhance the possibility that the Exchange could come up with an alternative plan that conforms to code.
At the same time, Robert Lincoln, attorney for the Woman’s Exchange, submitted a letter to the City demanding arbitration. Arbitration is a procedure involving a special magistrate which is an intermediate step to going to court. Lincoln’s arguments were essentially that the City Commission decided in an arbitrary fashion, ignored competent and substantial evidence, deprived the Exchange of the right to use their property, and failed to cite the code.
Both of these matters are currently unresolved. LPNA is hopeful that the City and the Exchange can find a way for the Exchange to expand without creating a negative impact on Rawls Avenue and the neighborhood.
Unfortunately, the Exchange included a very negative statement in its current May newsletter, which is widely distributed) While this is consistent with the attitude WEX leadership has adopted from the beginning of the project, we sincerely hope they will embrace the idea that altering their plans will allow expansion and enable them to be a good neighbor.
We expect some decisions over the next month.