Theiss farm zoning changes advance

Halter opposes plan for duplexes, apartments

Zoning changes that would allow the construction of duplexes and apartments on the Theiss farm property in Fort Dodge were advanced by the City Council Monday.

Councilman Jeff Halter cast the sole dissenting vote on both zoning changes, saying that they were contrary to a new comprehensive plan that the city spent “north of a quarter million dollars on.”

Kirk Yung, who served on the Housing Committee of the Greater Fort Dodge Growth Alliance, defended the proposal to build duplexes and apartments in what has been named the Williams Bend neighborhood. He said a mixture of single-family and multifamily housing is needed to make the development work financially.

The homes, he added, are needed.

“We are losing people in Fort Dodge to Ames, Humboldt and Webster City because we simply don’t have the housing they’re looking for,” he said.

City Council candidate Brian McClain, who is running for the Ward 4 seat because he objects to building multi-family housing on the site, submitted written objections to both changes. He did not address the council Monday.

Don Warren, of 1307 20th Ave. N., was the only resident who addressed the council about the zoning changes Monday. He asked questions about the specific location of the proposed duplexes and apartments. He also asked for a map of the site. But he did not state any objections to the plans.

The Theiss farm is bordered by Williams Drive, 25th Avenue North, North 15th Street and 21st Avenue North. It was purchased by the Fort Dodge Betterment Foundation and the city government last year specifically to provide a site for new housing.

The council last week hired Rasch Construction Inc., of Fort Dodge, to build a new section of 24th Avenue North between 15th Street and Williams Drive to provide access to the new housing area. The company will be paid $1,134,407. Work may begin next month.

The latest plan calls for 47 new single-family houses in the area to be built by Michael Pearson, of Fort Dodge. There has been no opposition to those proposed new homes. The land is already appropriately zoned for single-family homes.

The plan also includes 12 duplexes to be built by Windstone Circle LLC, of Fort Dodge.

One of those duplexes will be built just north of The Station at 2320 N. 15th St. The others will built along a private road to be constructed off Williams Drive.

Jim Kesterson, a spokesman for Windstone Circle LLC, said the duplexes will be identical to ones the company built near Second Avenue South and U.S. Highway 169.

He said each unit will have two bedrooms, two bathrooms and a two-car garage. He said they will rent for $1,000 to $1,200 a month.

According to Kesterson, the plan to build the duplexes along a new private road was developed in response to objections from Councilman Kim Alstott, who represents Ward 4. He said Alstott did not want duplexes along Williams Drive.

“He wanted it off of Williams Drive and he was adament about that,” Kesterson said.

The apartments would be built by Pearson. He has proposed a 55-unit complex. It would be north of the current Northwoods Living and Coachlight Apartments on 20th Avenue North.

The council was faced with two zoning questions Monday. The first was whether an area should be switched to multifamily residential status to allow construction of the apartments.

Halter said the comprehensive plan and the future land use plan desiginate the entire area for single family housing.

“I feel for what we spent on it and for our future, it’s in our best interest to follow the plan,” he said.

That zoning change won the first approval of the council on a 5-1 vote. Councilmen Neven Conrad, Andy Fritz, Dean Hill, Terry Moehnke and Alstott voted yes. Halter voted no. Councilman Dave Flattery was absent.

Changing the site of the proposed duplexes to a different single-family residential zone was the second zoning issue to come before the council.

Halter said that switching between single-family homes and duplexes may not meet the definition of illegal spot zoning, but it would look a lot like illegal spot zoning. And he again cited the comprehensive plan and the future land use plan, which both show the Theiss farm property is being all single family residential.

Alstott said he supported the construction of the duplexes.

“What we desperately need is good rental properties,” he said. “These are going to be nice-quality homes.”

Conrad said that every proposal the city received for the Theiss farm included some multifamily housing.

“If we had a plan for all single-family housing, the whole council would be on board,” he said.

Mayor Matt Bemrich said the Theiss farm proposals would create a “cohesive neighborhood” that includes a mix of housing types.

“I think this is a good plan,” he said. “I think it is well-laid-out.”

The zoning change for the duplex won approval on first reading by a 5-1 vote. Again, Alstott, Conrad, Fritz, Hill and Moehnke voted yes, while Halter voted no. Flattery was absent.

Both zoning changes must be approved by the council two more times to become effective.