Continued uncertainty over potential developments along Dubuque’s east-west corridor have proved too much for one heritage business.
As Dubuque City Council members agreed to extend a moratorium on private development in the area until 2022, owners of Butt’s Florist, a fixture at 2300 University Ave. for 50 years, were making plans to move to a new home.
“They keep telling me (updates like roundabouts are) coming,” said Bryan Fitting, who purchased the business in 2017. “It has been a little bit worrisome.”
The moratorium, according to Assistant City Engineer Bob Schiesl, gives the city review and veto authority over major property developments along the corridor. The affected area is University Avenue and the nearest ends of intersecting streets, especially Loras Boulevard, Asbury Road and Pennsylvania Avenue. City officials are considering installing roundabouts at all three intersections.
“People would still be able to make improvements to their properties,” Schiesl said. “Basically, it just allows us to evaluate. If somebody were to come in and wanted to do some kind of improvement or home remodel or significant improvement, this allows us that review mechanism.”
Council members first enacted the moratorium in 2012, according to Schiesl. Extending it to 2022 will make 10 years. The moratorium most recently was extended for three years in 2016, ending in June.
The city still has no detailed plan for the corridor improvements, though discussions and conceptual plans have been taking place for seven years.
But for Fitting, the uncertainty has proven too much.
His business is located at the intersection of University Avenue and Asbury Road. Installation of a roundabout could negatively impact the nearly 60-year-old floral shop, he said.
“The roundabout, I think, is going to take some of the property we currently reside in,” Fitting said. “I knew at some point they’re going to be addressing a roundabout, but they don’t give me a timeframe. That uncertainty is tough.”
Fitting said Butt’s will move to a location on Dodge Street in October or November.
Dubuque Area Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Molly Grover said she hasn’t heard any other business owners in the corridor area express concerns about the city’s plans. But she said that, as a rule, businesses want certainty and predictability.
Schiesl said more concrete plans are in the works for the corridor project.
“It is our hope and our plan that within the next 12 to 16 months we will have the preliminary design and environmental phase completed,” he said. “That will allow the city to identify the property impacts in the corridor. That will allow us to identify the properties that would need to be acquired.”
Once the city knows those impacts, Schiesl said, property acquisition — some of which will be necessary — likely will take about two years.
In the meantime, he said, the moratorium shouldn’t impact residential landowners, who possess the majority of the properties along the project route.
“If somebody wanted a new roof, that would still be allowed,” Schiesl said. “The moratorium would not prohibit anyone doing home improvement.”
The moratorium did lead to the city acquiring commercial property in recent years.
Schiesl said Rainbow Oil Company officials in 2015 approached the city with plans for a vacant lot at the northeast corner of the intersection of Asbury Road and University Avenue. But discussions instead led to what Schiesl called an “advanced protective purchase” of the property.