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City: Where to turn for answers on Sunset Bay condos?

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Complaints are beginning to be heard about the idle Sunset Bay Condominiums site on the municipal golf course in Storm Lake, but city officials do not feel that there is much that they can do to influence the project at this time.

"We are monitoring their site, making sure that the perimeter fencing is secure and so on," said Scott Oleson, city code enforcement official. "Obviously there are going to be issues with an idle site like this sitting right next to the resort this city has invested so much in," he said.

The city sold a portion of its golf course land to Regency Commercial Services, a branch of Regency Homes, Iowa's largest residential builder, in part to raise funds toward the resort and the rest of the lakefront development Project AWAYSIS. Regency started to build, but has left the site unattended since early September of 2007.

"The first thing is, we have to find someone to get in contact with," Oleson said, referring to the fact that Regency Homes has laid off most of its staff in a serious financial crunch. Pilot-Tribune calls to Regency have gone unanswered for months.

"We're not sure who we are dealing with now," Oleson said. "We're not alone - there are hundreds of houses sitting around half-finished and everyone wants answers."

"We're told the Storm Lake project is a part of their commercial services and is separate from Regency Homes."

While the company has indicated to its local representative that it intended to resume building this week, it has already faced lawsuits from unpaid contractors and its original planner, Dam Pomerenke, a developer and native of Lakeside who is no longer affiliated with the company.

"We feel like there is still a ray of hope that this could get done," Oleson said. "They are in a pretty tough spot now, but they have millions of dollars invested in this project already, and I can't imagine it could be left to just sit indefinately."

While the city was paid in full for the land earlier, it does have a vested interest.

"It's sitting next to our facility," he said.

There are not a lot of concerns about safety, he said, with the fence standing and the construction that has been done appearing pretty stable. Standing water, high weeds, erosion and eyesore factor, however, are beginning to stir citizen concerns.

"Typically, is a landowner does not comply with our regulations, the city will go in and take care of the problems ourselves, and assess the cost back to their taxes," Oleson said. "The process has to go through various stages."

Regency planned up to 110 upscale units, and some were purchased or spoken for a year ago. At least one purchaser asked for and reportedly received a refund.

In addition to the land-sale revenue, the city had hoped that the condos - with its own landscaped pond and gazebo are that would be open to the public - would attract new residents to the city and create something of a trickle-down effect of available homes in a rather tight housing market.

However, Oleson said that there is some preliminary discussion going on that could evolve into other multiple-unit housing developments in the city, as well as two modest subdivision projects that are projected to add some single-family housing development.

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