Behavior analyst gets go-ahead from commissioners to work in historic Baghdad house
Deaf behavior analyst Marlene Loewen had her rezoning application approved by the commissioners on January 27 to work in a small medical practice to continue her work with autistic children.
The land next to the Old Baghdad Highway was zoned as Historic Single Family (HR1) and was changed to Historic Commercial (HC1) zoning to allow office space as a medical practice.
“We work with children with autism, as well as adolescents and young adults,” Loewen said. “We use the facilities when my teams come in for new therapy supplies (or) to write up their medical notes.”
District 2 Commissioner Bob Cole initially viewed the rezoning as an issue, saying the HC1 zoning would remain there if she were to leave.
“If we rezone this property, and I commend you on your work and what you want to do,” Cole said, “but if at some point you say, ‘We’re going to take our work somewhere else,’ the zoning stay on this property.
Loewen responded, saying she understood and compared her property to those around her, which according to the zoning map is true – every property surrounding her property is zoned as HC1.
“Just like it’s across the street for this gentleman,” Loewen replied to Cole’s comments. “As well as the gentleman on our right and the gentleman on our left. They live in a house on HC1. Like us, they could sell tomorrow and the same thing could happen.
“Look at the zoning,” she continued. “We are surrounded by the same property that I ask.”
Baghdad citizen David Bailly told the commissioners that the current building was not Loewen’s home, but rather a simple business.
“It’s clearly a business,” Bailly said. “The closest model to what we see…is that it’s a daycare. I’m not trying to discredit what they do, but we see children coming and going several times a day.
Loewen took issue with Bailly’s comments, saying she was not a “glorified babysitter”.
“I am a Medicaid Provider, Medicare Provider, TRICARE Provider, Blue Cross Blue Shield, Aetna, United, Cigna,” she said. “I’m not a daycare and I never will be. I am not a glorified babysitter. I teach children to speak. I prevent them from harming themselves and their families.
“HC1 in Baghdad means you’re opening something in an HC1 area that reflects the culture of the time,” Cole said after reading the requirements for using the site in historic Baghdad. “Again, I applaud what you are doing, but having been involved for the last 20 years in Baghdad and knowing where that came from… I cannot support this request.”
Cole also went on to reiterate her previous concern that the land would remain HC1 if she were to leave, to which she replied that the other owners of HC1 would be the same.
Cole then changed his mind after District 4 Commissioner Dave Piech and District 5 Commissioner Colten Wright disagreed with Cole, saying the same thing Loewen had said twice before – she’s surrounded by HC1 zoning.
“Based on the clustering of other HC1 areas around it, I don’t see how it would negatively affect neighboring properties,” Wright said.
Piech said he views his business like any other small business that operates out of old homes.
“Your operation is no different to me than a defense attorney seeing a criminal charged,” he said. “I respect Commissioner Cole’s work in this area and all, but as I…look at the facts and the data here, I’m inclined to support your request.”
Cole then said the commissioner raised “good points” even though it was the same evidence Loewen had originally given to justify the rezoning, and he moved approval without objection.