Some neighbors still opposed
The City of Storm Lake Board of Adjustment, reversing the recommendation of the city Planning and Zoning Commission, Wednesday afternoon approved the county's application for a conditional use permit to build a jail just north of the county's Richland Street Annex.
The board split on a 3-2 vote. After testimony, somewhat testy at times, from those favoring the jail site and those opposed, the Board laid down a number of conditions under which the permit to build the jail could be issued. Voting in favor were Wyatt Yon, Chair Bob Bennett, and David Walker. Opposed were John McKenna and Gary Ringgenberg.
"Buena Vista County needs a new jail," County Supervisor Bill Lanphere said in an introduction. "The cost to outsource outside the county is excessive."
After the meeting, Sheriff Chuck Eddy said the current cost to house prisoners outside the county is $500 a day.
Lanphere said Supervisors had examined 20 possible sites for a new jail.
They chose the Richland site to propose to city officials for zoning approval. Lanphere noted that one of those sites had been brought before the city previously and was denied, speaking of a site on West Milwaukee Avenue now occupied by a car dealership.
Lanphere also addressed objections offered in the past to the Richland Annex site.
"We have no jail breaks," Lanphere said. "We've had no incidents of disturbance inside the jail getting outside in the history of Buena Vista County." Lanphere said the county's plan also adhered to setbacks and height requirements and so the the county was not requesting a variance.
In a question-and-answer session that followed, Lanphere said, "We will be completely isolated from residential houses" with plans for construction of the storage buildings to the north. Lanphere said the county had planned on going "a step beyond" in landscaping and exterior architecture for the jail before it learned that the storage buildings were being erected and would screen the view of the jail from the MCS addition.
When asked for the reason for his vote against granting the county a conditional use permit for the jail, Ringgenberg said the sheer number of people who showed up at the meeting who were opposed to the jail urged him to vote no.
While many on both sides of the jail issue may have thought the Planning and Zoning recommendation to deny the conditional use permit may have been a "done deal", it wasn't until after public comment had concluded that Chair Bob Bennet gave some indication as to how the Board might swing on the issue.
Bennet said concerns over sidewalks and streets were a matter for the Storm Lake City Council. Bennet noted that if just a Sheriff's office alone was involved, which would involve just as much traffic, and not a jail, there would not be nearly as many comments against the proposal.
Board Member David Walker suggested as a condition that the jail entrance be off Expansion Boulevard rather than Ray Street. "That would be a consideration I would like to see personally," Walker said. Walker, a theater lighting expert and professor in the BVU theater department, also suggested the cutoff angle of lighting be directed in such as way as to not disturb neighbors. Walker also suggested finding alternate routes to avoid excess Fourth Street traffic.
Board Member John McKenna suggested vertical landscaping as a condition.
One possible wrinkle in the argument that the jail would ruin the aesthetics of the area was that three storage buildings are planned for property formerly owned by Buena Vista Regional Medical Center, with one of those buildings already constructed.
Following are some of the comments for and against the jail during the Board of Adjustment meeting Monday:
* Frank Klahs, member of Buena Vista County Farm Bureau which favored the site since the county already owns the property: "Security is not an issue and it shouldn't be... Maybe it's time that it should go to the voters and let the voters decide" on the location as well as the cost of a new jail.
* Ron Bue, 1707 Rose Lane: "We're against the jail. Traffic is going to be an issue right away...I like the neighborhood and I'd just as noon not see it change."
* Howard Diischer, 1705 Rose Lane: "We try to take care of our houses out there...The perception of a jail will depreciate property values."
* Lowell Fields, 808 Northwestern Drive: "I believe that this is a very good site..I think we need to approve this site and move on...I don't think there's more safety issues out there than there are anywhere else."