Residents oppose using school as apartments

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Austin Montgomery/Beloit Daily News A plan to turn the site of the former Royce Elementary School into 21 apartment units has been met with resident opposition.

BELOIT - A potential plan to reuse the old Royce School building on Liberty Avenue for apartments has been met by opposition from residents.

The two-acre vacant school site could see 21 apartment units if property owner Phay Shu gets his way, but the development would require zoning changes to the site to allow for multifamily projects at 825 Liberty Ave.

Building and Planning Services Director Drew Pennington said the zoning change may not be supported by staff if resident opposition continues. The Plan Commission would either provide a recommendation for approval or denial of any zoning change ahead of a Beloit City Council decision.

Pennington noted multiple calls had been received by city officials in opposition to the proposed development that was purchased by Shu last year for $56,000 from the School District of Beloit.

No official planning documents had been submitted to the city, Pennington confirmed. Shu presented the idea to residents last month. Neighbors met Wednesday at the Knights of Columbus Hall, 939 Liberty Ave. in Beloit to discuss the possible plan.

Pennington added that the city had communicated to Phay the city's comprehensive plan, which is intended to reflect the community's vision for what it wants to be and opposition could alter developments.

"The likelihood diminishes for any zoning change if the neighborhood is opposed to any project," Pennington said.

He compared the organized opposition to the new apartment idea to the failed proposal to reuse the Kolak Educational Center for apartments in 2015. Both projects share the similarity of being surrounded by single and two-family properties with neighbors viewing both as key identifiers for both areas on the West Side.

"I think design matters a lot with these reuse projects," Pennington said. "It's too early to say whether it could work or not."

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