The Garden City Telegram
4/6/2013
OPINIONS AND COMMENTARY

Split plan

Revised apartment plan, other proposals in order.

The former American Legion building in downtown Garden City boasts a unique design.

And a plan to convert the historic building into apartments was just unusual enough to create issues.

Responding to a call for requests for use of the former American Legion building on Pine Street, CCS Properties, LLC, proposed turning the split-level building into several apartments.

The plan raised eyebrows because current zoning prohibits ground-floor apartments downtown.

While that was a fair concern, other issues raised as the plan was vetted were off-base, namely purported conflicts of interest by Commissioner Dan Fankhauser, who previously did business with CCS and didn't object to residential development of the Legion building, and Downtown Vision executive director Beverly Schmitz Glass, who opposed the apartment plan.

A longtime architect in the community, Fankhauser has been involved in numerous projects. Many new proposals from entities he's dealt with in the past could come before the city commission, and it's unrealistic to think he should bow out of those discussions every time.

His direct involvement in the project would be another story, but that wasn't the case.

As for Glass' supposed conflict of interest, it was no secret that the only other proposal for the property came from Downtown Vision and a Finney County Economic Development Corp. seeking a site for their offices.

Even though that proposal missed the city's deadline, Glass — as the voice for Downtown Vision — still had cause to represent the group's interests regarding downtown development.

Due to difficulty navigating through red tape, the apartment proposal stalled anyway.

CCS owners suggested they could revise their plan to better fit existing guidelines. In a community with a need for housing, such ventures warrant consideration.

With the city back to square one on the building — and no interest in seeing it languish as a white elephant — CCS and others should be given another chance.

The building may have challenges — for one, it falls short of Americans with Disabilities Act requirements — but is in a good location.

By starting over, more possible uses for the building could emerge. Or not.

The city should float another request for proposals and find out.