Citing a lack of plans and timeframe for development, the Buena Visa County Board of Supervisors unanimously passed a resolution this week opposing the City of Storm Lake's proposed voluntary annexation of 121.86 acres northwest of the city limits.
The properties in question are located north of Faith, Hope & Charity, near 90th Avenue, and are owned by developer Jim Bauer and Security Trust and Savings Bank.
In July, Bauer announced plans for Buffalo Ridge Estates, a 105-acre subdivision with lots for 117 homes, but the project now appears to have slowed, with no schedule for construction.
According to City Manager Jim Patrick, Security Bank also has development plans, but has not indicated when the project would begin.
City Clerk Justin Yarosevich told the Supervisors the two property owners approached the City, inquiring about water and sewer services, but no formal request has been made.
"They have not said, 'We want water tomorrow," he explained.
But with annexation taking approximately three to four months to complete, developers are hoping to get the process out of the way before moving forward with the project.
If annexed, properties are still part of the county and will remain zoned as agricultural, until a rezoning request is made, Patrick said. A public hearing would be held at that point, allowing rural residents to voice their opinions.
But several unidentified rural residents near the properties have already contacted the Supervisors, asking for the annexation to wait until plans are finished.
"I have had conversations with adjoining landowners, who are not in favor of it," Supervisor Paul Merten said, noting the opposition comes due to lack of plans and proximity to existing livestock facilities. "They want to know what's coming in next door, but no one can give them an answer at this time."
Supervisor Dale Arends said he would "go with the annexation in a heartbeat if there was a good, solid plan," but did not see the reason to rush annexation without it.
"There are those who prefer to have more buffer between themselves and the city, and wish to have no development on their property or next to them," he explained. "I have no problem with annexation and development, as long as the two go together. If we wait on development, why not wait on annexation?"
Following a motion by Supervisor Ken Hach to oppose annexation and a second by Merten, Patrick questioned why the Board repeatedly has opposed county-to-city annexations.
"I have a hard time understanding the opposition of annexing into the city---it's almost like we are taking something from the county," he said. "We are not trying to be adversarial and are not trying to do something opposed to the county, but are trying to help the county develop by bringing in extra revenue and people. I have a hard time understanding about what it is about coming into the city that is so obnoxious to the Board."
After saying he was offended by Patrick's statement that the Supervisors view annexations as "obnoxious," Merten defended his opinion.
"When you keep pulling out acres, it keeps chipping away at road and sheriff funds," he said. "It does affect the county, taking money from county to city coffers."
He continued, "If you look at our budget, compared to yours, we have to fight for every dollar, and need every dollar we have. We are not seeing this as opposition, but would rather see you develop what you have, before moving out."
Approximately 700 undeveloped acres exist within city limits, but working with property owners has been challenging. For the past 15 years, the City has unsuccessfully attempted to spur development at a vacant property near East Milwaukee Avenue.
"The land has been in every study we have talked about, but, sometimes, owners don't want to develop," Yarosevich said, adding the City wants to see housing built, not create urban sprawl across the county.
It has been estimated that Storm Lake will be short 500 housing units by next year, but numerous housing attempts have failed due to cost. Eight years ago, developers scoped out an area for 21 homes north of 10th Street, but abandoned the project upon learning the price for installing roads.
"We're not in the business of telling adjoining property owners we are going to take this land in, and we are coming to get them next," Yarosevich continued. "We are leaving them alone---what we are trying to do is build houses to grow the tax base."
Supervisors Chair Rhonda Ringgenberg further explained the county's position.
"We do look at this as our opportunity to express what has been brought to us," she said. "We don't look at it as an adversarial position it all, but what our opinion is will not stop the annexation."
In October, the Planning and Zoning Commission gave their approval for the annexation, but a lawyer representing adjoining landowners expressed concern about potential drainage issues.
The next step in the annexation process is a public hearing during the Nov. 19 Storm Lake City Council Meeting.