Deaf behavior analyst Marlene Loewen had her rezoning request approved by the commissioners on Jan. 27 to work out of a small medical office to continue her work with autistic children.
The land located off Old Bagdad Highway was zoned as Historical Single Family (HR1) and was changed to Historic Commercial (HC1) zoning to allow the office space as a medical office.
“We work with autistic children, as well as adolescents and young adults,” Loewen said. “We do use the facilities for when my teams come in to get new therapy supplies (or) to write their medical notes.”
District 2 Commissioner Bob Cole initially saw the rezoning as a problem, saying that the HC1 zoning stays there if she were to leave.
“If we change the zoning on this property, and I applaud you for your work and what you want to do,” Cole said, “but if at some time you say, ‘We’re going to take our work somewhere else,’ the zoning stays on that property.”
Loewen responded, saying she understands and likened her property with those around her own, which according to zoning map is true – every property surrounding her property is zoned as HC1.
“Just like it’s across the street for that gentleman,” Loewen responded to Cole’s comments. “As well as the gentleman to the right of us and the gentleman to the left of us. They live in a home on HC1. Like us, they could sell tomorrow and the same thing could happen.
“Look at the zoning,” she continued. “We’re surrounded by the same property I’m asking for.”
Bagdad citizen David Bailly told the commissioners that the current building was not Loewen’s home, rather it was just a business.
“This is clearly a business,” Bailly said. “The closest model to what we see … is that it is a daycare. I’m not trying to discredit what they do, but we see children n coming and going multiple times during the day.”
Loewen took objection to Bailly’s comments, saying she is not a “glorified babysitter.”
“I am a Medicaid provider, Medicare provider, TRICARE provider, Blue Cross Blue Shield, Aetna, United, Cigna,” she said. “I am not a daycare, and never will be. I am not a glorified babysitter. I teach children to speak. I stop them from hurting themselves and their families.”
“HC1 in Bagdad means you open something in an HC1 area that reflects the culture of the time,” Cole said after reading site use requirements in historic Bagdad. “Again, I applaud what you’re doing, but having been involved for the last 20 years in Bagdad and knowing where it’s come from … I’m not going to be able to support this request.”
Cole also followed by stating his previous concern again that the land would remain HC1 if she were to leave, to which she responded that the other HC1 property holders would be the same.
Cole later changed his mind after District 4 Commissioner Dave Piech and District 5 Commissioner Colten Wright disagreed with Cole, saying the same thing that Loewen had twice before – she’s surrounded by HC1 zoning.
“Based on the clustering of the other HC1 zoning around it, I don’t see how this would negatively affect the neighboring properties,” Wright said.
Piech said he sees her business as any of the other small businesses that operate out of former homes.
“Your operation is no different to me than a defense attorney seeing an accused felon,” he said. “I respect Commissioner Cole’s work with that area and things, but as I … look at the facts and the data here, I’m inclined to support your request.”
Cole then said that the commissioner brought up “good points,” even though they are the same points of evidence Loewen initially gave as her reasoning for the rezoning, and he moved the item for approval without objection.