Developers to submit new Chalstrom Beach plans
OKOBOJI A plan to develop more than 60 acres of land near East Lake Okoboji's Chalstrom Beach will emerge on several upcoming county agendas. The planned unit development or PUD was voted down in late September by the Dickinson County Board of Adjustment. Afterward, developers Nicolas Poolman and Jeremy Jalas, along with deed holder Leo "Butch" Parks, were given the option to appeal the board's decision.
The developers have chosen a different method to potentially achieve their goal instead.
Megan Kardell, office manager with the Dickinson County Zoning and Environmental Health Office, confirmed an entirely new application created the upcoming agenda items, rather than an appeal.
"Things have changed in the contract," Kardell said. "Of course, they've had to bring back something new something different but the same general idea."
The proposed project tentatively named East Loch Estates would require the farmland near Chalstrom Beach be rezoned from its current A1 agricultural district to an R3 multifamily residential district. The Planning and Zoning Commission is currently slated to consider both a rezoning recommendation and a planned unit development recommendation.
If the land is rezoned, the planned development would conditionally be able to move forward in the residential district.
"If the rezoning doesn't go through, then the entire thing would stop completely, because the PUD is contingent upon the R3 district," she said.
Dickinson County Supervisor Tim Fairchild said a number of the revisions in the new proposed contract may be considered a favorable response by those initially opposed to the development.
The public was divided about the development during the first application. Residents of nearby Chalstrom Beach signed a petition at that time, urging the Dickinson County Board of Supervisors and the board of adjustment not to allow the development. Original plans called for eight housing units per acre on the property.
At that time, the developers rezoning request was recommended for approval by the County Planning and Zoning Commission and approved by the County Board of Supervisors, contingent on approval of the planned unit development. Both groups passed the issue with a divided vote. The applicants planned to develop the land in several phases over the course of approximately 10 years. Although Parks is still listed as the deed holder of the property, project engineer Brad Beck said during the Board of Adjustment's Sept. 25 meeting Parks will not be involved in the development of the land.
Planned unit developments are meant to be flexible and allow for more than residential units in the district, according to County Zoning Administrator Dave Kohlhaase. Article 9 of the county zoning ordinance lists additional commercial uses in an R3 district, such as a bed and breakfast, an off-street parking facility, funeral services and medical offices. The list also includes civic uses, such as daycare services and major utility facilities. Kohlhaase thinks this would be the first planned unit development in the county.
The issue will first be taken before the Dickinson County Planning and Zoning Commission at 1 p.m. Dec. 18 and potentially be forwarded to the county board of supervisors the following day. At that point, the issue would then be discussed by the Dickinson County Board of Adjustment during its Dec. 26 meeting.
The schedule was somewhat of a problem for Supervisor Paul Johnson. He feels it has become standard practice to schedule hearings on important or controversial issues during the winter particularly Christmas when Lakes area residents may be traveling and unable to provide input. Whether by intent or design, the developer's plan for the Chalstrom Beach area seems to fit the pattern, according to the supervisor.
"In a span of less than 10 days, all of this is to take place during a key time of the year," Johnson said. "It gives the impression to the public that we, as the board of supervisors, really don't care. We'll just go ahead and let the developers set the timetable. Well, I think that's wrong. I think we do care."
Supervisor Mardi Allen recommended discussion of the issue be halted, since the discussion was not included on the board's Tuesday agenda. Johnson contended, since the board had entered the final agenda item, "Board and Committee Reports nonactionable items presented," the discussion could continue, so long as no action was taken.
Johnson encouraged his fellow board members to consider delaying the Dec. 19 agenda item until some time in January. However, Kardell said the zoning office had sent 175 notifications to affected residents by mail as of Nov. 28, and said appropriate public notice was printed in the local newspaper or will be printed, depending on the specific meeting's date.
The zoning office manager said the meeting dates are scheduled a year in advance. The Planning and Zoning Commission meets the third Monday of the month, and the Board of Adjustment meets the fourth Monday of the month, which falls on Christmas this year, so the meeting was scheduled for the next day. Supervisor Tim Fairchild said altering the schedule to impact the proceedings of a controversial issue would lead to a slippery slope for the county. Board Chairman Bill Leupold agreed. If the issue is indeed of importance to area residents, Fairchild felt the public will make some effort to voice their opinions on the matter.
The public is encouraged to bring concerns to the respective boards during their scheduled public hearings, rather than contacting the members of the boards individually which, in certain cases, could be considered illegal lobbying of a quasi-judicial board. However, Assistant County Attorney Lonnie Saunders said the Board of Supervisors could potentially decide whether to discuss the topic, because they are elected officials. Still, they were cautioned to be careful with their words if they choose to discuss the issue.