Are we playing fair?
In late December, Dickinson County held three controversial public hearings for the rezoning of a 66-acre property called East Loch Estates — north of the Chalstrom Beach Plantation. There were a Dec. 18 Planning and Zoning, Dec. 19-20 Board of Supervisors and Dec. 26 Board of Adjustment public hearings. The decision at each public hearing was to approve rezoning from Agricultural to a 400-plus, multi-family residential development, including a planned unit development. I attended all three public hearings and have read the meeting minutes. As a result, I am concerned about the fairness of how the three public hearings were conducted and the decisions made.
All three of the East Loch Estates developer’s presentations were made by Brad Beck. He was given an hour at the beginning of each public hearing to explain and sell the developers plan. Then after the public comments — that were limited to three minutes each — he was afforded another half hour to, in theory, answer any questions brought up by the commenters.
None of the 86 pages of documents submitted by the East Loch Estates developers to County Zoning — to justify their request for rezoning — are signed or dated. This large collection of unrelated documents is not well explained how each document relates to this specific development.
Only Phase 1 for 62 homes has some planned layout. The remaining Phase 2 to 5 — to be constructed over a 10-plus year period of time — are not well described. As the project progresses over a 10-year period, many changes could occur with minimum control by the county. It has been explained to me the P&Z and the BOA are quasi-official county commissions responsible for making critical and legal rezoning decisions. One would think some semblance of legal procedures would be followed — like asking the developer to sign and date their proposal.
The Iowa Great Lakes Sanitary District has concerns there is not enough sewer capacity to serve the area around the proposed East Loch Estates development. A Dec. 22 letter from the Sanitary Sewer District was not given proper consideration at the Dec. 26 Board of Adjustment public hearing. It is unclear who will pay the considerable cost to increase the sewer capacity to serve this development. Will it be the taxpayers? A Tax Increment Financing proposal is on the horizon for the taxpayers to subsidize this project.
I am concerned that, when critical zoning matters are being evaluated, a developer can make promises by submitting vague documents and make oral promises during a zoning hearing to obtain approval and then once the project is approved; there is little, if any, county oversight.