An attorney’s bid to turn one of Kokomo’s historic Silk Stocking mansions into a commercial property took a blow Monday, when the Kokomo Common Council defeated a rezoning petition on a 5-4 vote.
For Kokomo Mayor Greg Goodnight, the narrow vote was vindication of his urban planning philosophy.
But for some of the neighbors in the 500 and 600 blocks of West Sycamore Street, the vote raised concerns that a potentially good neighbor is being turned away.
Three neighborhood residents testified in favor of the rezoning, which would have allowed attorney Robert Nice to open a law firm in the old Bolinger mansion, 600 W. Sycamore St.
The mansion, which was occupied for decades by longtime Kokomo attorney Owen Bolinger and his wife, Mary Ann, went on the market over the winter and was purchased in January by the Chrystal Ziliotto Revocable Trust.
Nice sought to have the residential home rezoned office commercial, which would have allowed him to both use the home as a law office and put a sign out front. Office commercial zoning also allows for a number of other possible uses, including medical services, bookstore, convenience store and drug store.
The Kokomo Plan Commission voted 6-2 earlier this month to give the plan a negative recommendation, but Nice decided to press on and seek approval from the city council.
After 45 minutes of discussion Monday, it was clear even before the vote that the council was deeply split on the rezoning, which Goodnight’s administration opposed.
City attorney Lawrence McCormack said the city needs to maintain a “clear demarcation” between residential and commercial properties.
“We should strive to maintain these neighborhoods, because once you go commercial, you can never go back,” McCormack said.
But neighbors along Sycamore came forward to say Nice’s law office would be a good addition to the neighborhood and said they were confident the owner of the property would invest in upkeep.