TOWER— The planning and zoning commission here is taking its time as it works through a conditional use permit application from Dave and Darlene Rose, who have proposed construction of a 42-unit RV …
TOWER— The planning and zoning commission here is taking its time as it works through a conditional use permit application from Dave and Darlene Rose, who have proposed construction of a 42-unit RV park along the East Two River.
On Tuesday, the commission faced fewer than a handful of neighbors in the audience as they discussed the upcoming conditional use permit application, and the process city officials will need to follow as they work towards a decision.
Commission members noted they were not even able to accept the conditional use permit application until the Tower City Council finalizes the rezoning next week. They did, however, hold a spirited discussion, back and forth, with property owner Dave Rose, who asked the commission to approve a letter of support for the project, which is the first step he needs in the still undetermined, but certain to be complicated, approval process.
“I can’t even submit my plan to other agencies until I have the city’s approval for the RV Park,” he told the commission. “I am not asking you to approve a specific number of lots, just asking for permission to have the RV park at this location.”
The commission, after a lengthy discussion, did approve a motion asking the city council to agree that if all the city ordinances were met, and all other state, county, and regulatory rules were followed, then a RV park could be pursued at that site.
This step, if approved by the Tower City Council at their meeting on May 10, would mean that Rose could begin the process of having St. Louis County, Army Corps of Engineers, and the DNR start reviewing his proposed plans.
City Clerk-Treasurer Linda Keith said the city engineer recommended that the city give Rose a checklist of steps that would need to be completed before the actual CUP application would be considered. She said a similar checklist had been developed for a previous project, that never moved forward, and could easily be revised to fit this project. Many of the questions that need to be answered will also be relevant for other potential development in the harbor area.
Rose said his first step will be to have the wetlands on his site mapped (delineated), which in turn will influence how many RV sites will be permitted without having to fill in wetlands. Rose noted that the cost of filling in wetlands to create additional RV sites was most likely too expensive to be practical. So while his draft CUP application called for 42 sites, the actual number of sites will likely be lower.
“Once all the agencies get involved,” he said, “things will change, and most likely lots will be subtracted.”
When questioned about how close to the shoreline RVs would be located, Rose said the actual RV pads would be located well in from the shoreline, most likely on the old railroad grade, to meet shoreline setback regulations. The RV site is larger than the actual spot the vehicle is parked at, he said, and would go to the shore, but would remain undeveloped.
“The RVs will not be overlooking the river,” Rose said.
Commission members also discussed whether or not docks would be permitted. While the DNR does have the authority to permit docks, the city, through the CUP process, would have the ability to set conditions on what sort of dockage, if any, would be allowed. Rose said he was looking at installing dockage at the shoreline’s edge, not to go out past the existing pilings.
Commission members expressed concerns over whether or not docked boats would impede traffic moving up and down the river to the city’s new harbor. The commission directed Keith to meet with the DNR to go over rules relating to docks and boat parking in the waterway.
“The river is a big part of our harbor project,” said commission member Dan Broten. “We need to keep it navigable.”
Commission members also counseled Rose that his final CUP application needed to include much more detail than the draft that was submitted at this point in time. But they did note that the current zoning does allow a RV park under a CUP, though the commission has the authority to attach conditions to any permit granted.
So while Rose is getting an initial go-ahead to move forward with the planning process, whether or not the project can actually become a reality is yet to be determined.
“Maybe it will turn out that I can’t do this project,” Rose said. “Then I’ll just roll up my tent and go home.”
For a commission that has had few significant issues come before it in years, the RV park proposal is a reminder of just how complicated zoning can sometimes be, and of how quickly development proposals can spark controversy. Under the city ordinance, the proposed RV park is considered a planned unit development, which are among the most complicated projects that typically come before local planning boards.
At a meeting last Thursday, commission members discussed issues like development density, which is based on a complicated formula, as well as concerns about wetlands on the site, development of road and utility access, compliance with setbacks, and the potential for runoff into the river from many of the proposed RV sites. The shape of the parcel that the Roses hope to develop, which is long and narrow, and roughly in the shape of a “C” further adds to the complexity of all of those calculations.
The CUP application itself suggests that many of the proposed RV sites are located in wetlands, which likely won’t be available for project. The proposal, as drafted, indicates no green space, while PUDs must maintain 50 percent green space under the city’s ordinance.
Only adding to the stress for commission members is a large contingent of Mill Point residents who are adamantly opposed to the proposal. One of them, Joan Broten, who is also a member of the city council, recently hired attorney Erik Honkanen, of Virginia, to argue against the project on the residents’ behalf.
Honkanen questioned the Roses’ financial wherewithal to move forward on the project, noting that they have an outstanding judgment from a bank related to a previous development project that went bust. Honkanen suggested the city require Rose to post a bond before incurring any city expense to process his application. “The suitability of the site raises a number of other questions, but the financial issue is paramount,” said Honkanen.
Dave Rose didn’t deny the outstanding debt, but said he was the only one of the investors on the failed project that had continued to work with the bank to pay off what he owed, rather than declare bankruptcy. He said he had originally owed over $300,000, but had reduced that to $73,000, a total he said he expected to pay off entirely once he closes on the sale of a home.
Rose said he already has the financing arranged to move forward with his proposal and would be willing to document that with the city, if necessary.
Rose also took issue with Honkanen over his disclosure to the commission of 18, mostly traffic-related, violations committed by Rose over the past 20 years. “I think it’s a new low when you have to dig up a snowmobile citation from 20 years ago,” said Rose.
Honkanen also included several negative comments, pulled from an online review website, about an RV park that the Roses had operated near Shakopee. Rose said he has also received hundreds of positive comments over the years.