The Marshall Planning and Zoming Commission approved a request Tuesday, Jan. 8, to rezone the Old Fitzgibbon Hospital property at 868 S. Brunswick Ave., from planned development to R-2, residential.
The request now moves to the Marshall City Council for final approval.
During a public hearing prior to the commission's meeting, property owner Pat O'Hanlon made a plea for his request.
"We need a developer ... who's well-funded," he said. "If we're going to save this building, we need someone big who's going to come in and do it. I want it to be like new."
O'Hanlon said for old institutional buildings, residential uses were the most likely and so a residential zoning designation would make the building more marketable.
A neighbor of the old hospital, Keith Jackson, also spoke on behalf of the zoning change. His concern was not so much with the particular zoning designation but with increasing the chances of a redevelopment project.
"We live across the street," he said. "It has been sitting there. (It) deteriorates. It reduces my property values. I'd like to see something done in my neighborhood."
Stan Moore of Marshall-Saline Development Corporation also addressed the commission, and he assured members that a project is in the works.
"The old hospital has been on our radar for some time," he said, noting that a project is under development but the group involved can't be made public yet. "I think we're in a position that we're going to be able to move faster. We think it's a good fit for Marshall."
Moore urged the commission to leave the zoning as planned development. When commissioners asked whether the switch to R-2 would threaten the project MSDC is working on, Moore indicated it would not. "We're going to keep moving forward on our project as fast as we can," he said.
Commission member Rebecca Early asked O'Hanlon whether his request was an indication that Sunflower Development Group was renewing its interest in the building.
O'Hanlon said he has no commitments on the property currently.
Sunflower proposed a redevelopment project last summer that would have converted the old hospital to a 44-unit affordable senior housing facility. The firm initiated a rezoning request from P-D to R-2 in June.
The rezoning issue languished after the firm announced early in August that it would abandon the project after local Housing Authority Director David Hayes outlined his objections to it. A company spokesman said the objection posed a threat to a request for housing tax credits that were part of the financing plan.
Early, who has long experience in real estate, said the rezoning issue was premature without a specific project to consider.
David Ferron, a Kansas City real estate agent who lists the building, said in the city it is common practice to obtain zoning changes prior to marketing a building.
Following the public hearing, the commission convened in regular session to consider the request. The vote was five to one in favor of the request, with Early casting the dissenting vote.
In addition to Early, commission members Connie Latimer, Steven Mills, Chairman Brad Pistel, Gabe Ramsey and Danny Warren were present.
The city council is expected to hold a public hearing on the request at its Feb. 5 meeting.
Rezoning issue resurfaces for old hospital