During his last City Council meeting as Councilman for District 2, Alan Warrick pushed a zoning case off the agenda on Thursday.
“[Warrick] said he was no longer in a position to make these kinds of decisions,” Dignowity Hill resident Chris Mongeon told the Rivard Report after the meeting.
William “Cruz” Shaw unseated Warrick with 56% of the June 10 runoff vote to his 44%. Shaw, a criminal defense attorney, was chairman of the Zoning Commission before he started his campaign against Warrick – timing that Warrick would dispute.
Warrick did not respond to requests for comment by deadline.
Mongeon and his wife, Lauren, have found themselves on the other side of a vocal and passionate group of neighbors in Dignowity Hill that oppose their request for a zoning change. Council approval of the change would allow them to build a two-story garage with three attached studio apartments behind their historic home. Some neighbors are opposed to increased density, others are opposed to the possibility that the Mongeons might rent out some of the units through Airbnb. They already rent out some rooms in their large home through the short-term rental platform.
“I don’t think I know enough to have a very strong opinion [about the zoning request]” Shaw told the Rivard Report Friday, adding that he has only briefly met an attorney representing the Mongeons and a member of the opposition. “I haven’t gotten into the weeds of why there is an opposition.”
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The short-term rental issue, however, is already being hashed out through a separate public task force. Rules for these rentals are not likely to emerge for this process for at least five months, but the Mongeons have said they will comply with all regulations now and in the future.
The Dignowity Hill Neighborhood Association, which has no authority over the process other than to advise commissions and councils, voted overwhelmingly in favor of the project, 48-18. The Zoning Commission voted 5-2 in favor of the change, but zoning decisions require at least six votes in favor, making it a vote of denial. The Council will consider these votes and a recommendation of approval from City staff.
Warrick asked the Mongeons to take their zoning change request off the list of those slated for approval, Lauren said. They’ll now have to wait at least a month before the new Council resumes regular work in August.
“I am for personal property rights,” Warrick told the Rivard Report last month. His district includes Dignowity Hill, and he attended a portion of the neighborhood association’s meeting in May. “I will follow my guidance from [the neighborhood association] because they have the most robust process within the district.”
But since losing the runoff election, it seems Warrick will defer that conversation and decision to his successor, Councilman-elect Shaw. Warrick was found passed out on a bench at City Hall after a night of heavy drinking two weeks before the runoff election. Many credit his election loss to that incident and his handling of it.
On the topic of short-term rentals, Shaw said he is also an “advocate for private property rights … but I also believe in protecting the quality and integrity of neighborhoods – it’s a very fine line.”
Meanwhile, the Mongeons’ project has yet to be formally considered by the Historic and Design Review Commission. It was slated for review earlier this month, but the young couple decided to hold off and work more with City staff when it became apparent that staff would not recommend approval.
“Feedback from the Design Review Committee was positive,” Chris Mongeon said. “We’re confident that we have a project and a design that is appropriate for the neighborhood.”
As for the zoning piece, they hope Shaw and the rest of City Council will agree that “the neighborhood plan, density, and our zoning request are all aligned.”