Discussion heats up concerning housing requests

The Broken Bow Planning Commission was greeted by a host of visitors during their monthly meeting Feb. 22 in the Broken Bow Municipal Building. On the agenda were three separate requests involving plans for multi-family housing within the city. Up first was Brad Quackenbush, addressing the board in regards to a property he owns at 437 North 12th Street. The structure is currently set up as a duplex, however Quackenbush is in the process of renovating the property and dividing it into three or four units, requiring permission from the commission. Quackenbush says he is planning to design the main level to accommodate a two-bedroom and a one-bedroom unit, with an additional one or two units upstairs. He says he has talked with the neighbors of the property and no one has expressed negative feelings about the project. The board, however, had some concerns about the parking situation for the tenants of the property. Quackenbush explained that he plans to divide the parking on the north side of the building to provide parking for the residents. The biggest concern from the board members seemed to be the possibility of tenants having to back out onto Memorial Drive. Commissioner Hansen requested to see a drawn up plan for parking, and the board agreed to table a final decision until the next meeting when that plan can be presented. Also addressing the commission with a plan for multi-family housing was Chris Myers of Myers Construction. This property sits on the west half of the block that for years was home to Connely’s Camper Corner. Myers told the commission he intends to build a two-story apartment complex on the property. He says at this point he is unsure just how many units there will be. “It’s all up to the banker,” Myers laughed. Myers said they also own the two lots to the north of the property where the building is being planned, and parking for residents of the apartments will not be an issue. The commission unanimously approved Myers’ request for a special use permit under C1, for multi-family housing, and forwarded that request to the city council for approval. The third and final request is a little more controversial, and was the one the majority of the people in the room were there for. Bill Butler was awarded the bid a few months ago by the City Council for the property on the east side of the 5th Street ball field. Butler purchased the property from the city with plans to build a multi-family housing unit there. However, that plan has met with strong resistance from residents of that neighborhood. Those neighbors turned out in force when Butler first presented his plan to the Board of Adjustments, which at that time was for a 12-unit apartment complex. At Friday’s meeting, Butler told the commission that because of the backlash he received at that meeting, he has scaled the project back to a six-unit complex. Butler also informed the commission that he has talked with the city utilities department, and the city has agreed to extend the existing water line which will provide new water service to all the residences along South K Street, at no added cost to the property owners. Butler said the city has also agreed to widen South K Street and blacktop the existing gravel surface. Butler emphasized that all of these improvements are being made at no additional cost to the residents. However, even with the plan being scaled back and all of the promised improvements, the neighbors still objected. Bill Kreutzer, who lives on South K Street, was one of the strong opponents to the project during the Board of Adjustments meeting and continued his objections at the commission meeting. Kreutzer told the commission that the main selling point for him with his home is the fact that there is an unrestricted view out the front window. “I planned to retire here some day,” he said. He also voiced concerns about the increase in traffic along the street that would result from the addition of the apartment complex. Loren Taylor, who lives on South 3rd Avenue, also weighed in. “I am for development - not against it,” Taylor said firmly. “And I understand the need for housing in Broken Bow, but there is a place to put it and a place not to. I have talked to all the neighbors and not one of them is in favor of this project.” Commission Chairman Jim Duncan reminded the crowd present that the property in question is zoned R1, and therefore Butler could build as many as 12 single family units without permission from anyone. He added that with Butler’s plans to build no more than two 6-plex units there would be no more traffic than what is legally allowed. The zoning on the property will not change. Butler’s plans are to build a 32x108 square-foot complex, with the front of the building facing west. While there were many neighbors present expressing disapproval of the project, there were also a handful of supporters wiling to speak up. Barry Fox, representing Adams Land & Cattle Co., was one of them. “I believe the plan that’s being presented is reasonable,” said Fox. “If the community is going to grow, we have to find a place for multi-family housing.” Glen Birnie also went on the record as being in favor of the project. Also addressing the commission was Jeff Varney. “I don’t have a dog in this fight, but I just have to say I am a little confused,” said Varney. He addressed the fact that most of the neighboring property owners said they would support a plan to build single-family housing, even though the project Butler is proposing would create no more traffic than building 12 homes would create - and in fact, probably less. He added that the single-family homes would also obstruct the view, which was one of the chief complaints by many of those speaking in opposition. Some of the neighbors then went so far as to make reference to the “type” of people that would be living in the apartments. Charlene Taylor said it has been her experience that people who own their own homes tend to take better care of their properties than renters, and Kreutzer asked Butler what will happen if he can’t get the price he is asking for the apartments. He made reference to a lower rental complex catering to a different level of clientele, “then we’ll end up with trash blowing all over in our yards.” Butler visibly took offense to the comments, reminding the crowd and the commission that he had done this kind of project many, many times in California, Oregon and Colorado. “I don’t build dumps. I build quality housing,” Butler stated. “I’m trying to step to the plate here and provide some rental housing the city desperately needs.” After a lengthy discussion, which at times got a little heated, commissioner Rod Pracht made a motion to approve Butler’s request for special use of a R1 permit for multi-family housing, with the stipulation that the city agree to surface South K Street. The votes were: Brad Quackenbush - no, Travis Hansen - yes, Rod Pracht - yes, Jim Duncan - yes, Wayne Taylor - no, Rod Sonnichsen - yes, Matt Thomas - yes. The motion passed by a vote of 5-2. The city council will have final approval on each of these decisions. Less than 30 minutes after the Planning Commission adjourned, the City Council met.The only action item on the council’s agenda also involved property being planned for housing in Broken Bow. Mayor Cecil Burt told the council he had received only one bid for the sale of city owned park land at Indian Hills. The bid was submitted by Indian Hills Meadows, LLC, for $1. At the time the property was opened up for bids, some stipulations were put in place concerning the sale. Those stipulations include: • The successful bidder must plat and subdivide the property for a minimum of eight lots • Within one year of being the successful bidder, the subdivision must be completed and at least six houses must be substantially completed • The subdivision must provide for and install all streets and water, sewer and electric infrastructure • The successful bidder shall keep a park at the north end of the property, and if necessary deed the park ground back to the city. The council voted unanimously to accept the bid of Indian Hills Meadows, LLC. The next meeting of the Broken Bow City Council will be March 12.