Oak Township Projects Debated

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Dirt Extraction, Lake Ohana Cabins Focus Of Mills County Zoning Board of Adjustments Meeting

By Joe Foreman, Editor

Two projects being proposed in Oak Township were the focus of debate and sometimes contentious discussion during a 3.5-hour meeting of the Mills County Zoning Board of Adjustments Tuesday, Sept. 25.

    By the time the night was over, the board had approved one special use permit and tabled another.
    By a 4-1 vote, the board approved Cory Leick’s special use permit to extract soil from his property near 230th and Brothers Ave. Board members made a site visit to Leick’s property before reconvening a formal meeting in Glenwood.
    During the visit, Leick escorted board members, neighbors and members of the news media for a tour of his property, situated in a hilly area east of 230th Street. Leick said the dirt work would take place within a 32-acre partial of land with the intention of leveling off his property to make it “a little easier to farm.”
    “We’ll be able to farm an additional 25 acres,” he said. “We’ll also reverse the soil erosion we have right now on the south end of my property.”
    Not all of the soil would stay on Leick’s property, which is the source of concern for some of his neighbors. Up to one million cubic tons of dirt (about 60,000 truck loads) could be removed from the property. Oak Township residents speaking at the meeting voiced concerns about the dust, pollution, noise and increased traffic the heavy construction equipment would create along 230th Street and nearby Barrus Ave. Some residents believe the project will reduce property values in the area.
     In an effort to reduce the impact the project would have on local roads and traffic, Leick has agreed to build an access road that would run parallel to 230th Street. He’ll also be responsible for any clean-up and maintenance costs to county roads caused by the dirt removal.
    “I think everybody can see I’m putting my best foot forward to see that there’s no impact on surrounding properties,”  Leick said.
    The board approved the special use permit with the stipulation a public meeting be conducted again next summer to make sure Leick is standing by the terms of the permit and allow neighbors to voice concerns they might have at that time.
    Board member Pat Collins said he fully understands the concerns neighbors might have about the project, but also believes a private property owner should have the “personal freedom” to do what he wants with his own property. Board chair Pete Franks cast the lone “no” vote after noting the board’s own performance standards that forbid a project to create dust, noise or pollution.
    “Those standards are absolute,” Franks said.
    The second special use permit taken up by the board is for the placement of up to 12 portable cabins near the Lake Ohana commercial center at 230th and Barrus Road. Developers Craig Nakamoto and Don “D.K.” Hopp believe the cabins would be utilized by out-of-town guests attending wedding receptions at two nearby reception halls - The Fountains and Belle Terre.
    Several Lake Ohana and Oak Township residents in attendance said they had strong concerns about the cabins, including the belief the Lake Ohana area would turn into “Party Central” for alcohol-consuming wedding guests who return to their cabins late at night after they leave a reception at one of the ballrooms. Concerns were expressed about increased traffic, noise and litter that might be created by the cabins in addition to the public safety of residents.
    Harold Ward, who resides on 230th Street, presented a Lake Ohana map that indicated the area being proposed for the cabins is designated as green space.
    “When we bought the property, the map indicated those two lots would be green space,” Ward said.
    Because the property is in a commercially-zoned area, lodging could be permitted on the site. Board members, however, have requested a more-detailed plan for the project that addresses some of the concerns brought up during last week’s meeting.