WP Council Stalls Developer's Plans
The newest members of the Whispering Pines Village Council wasted little time exerting their influence.
Moments after Gerald Osborne and Ed Blackwell were sworn in as council members, the two were instrumental in stalling a proposed Heron’s Brooke development, when they voted to rescind conditions attached to developer Colin Webster’s sketch plan of the project.
“It (the list of conditions) was kinda put through at the last minute,” said Osborne, “and we took immediate action.”
Osborne and Blackwell both said they felt like the conditions could obligate the village to additional expenses in the future, such as maintenance costs for a proposed dam, walking trails and other open space.
Blackwell said he wants the council to be able to go “line by line” over the conditions and understand them thoroughly, because he feels there are conditions in there that “will change the nature of the village.”
“I still think it is a great project,” Blackwell said. “It’s just the conditions I think we need to reconsider.”
The conditions, which were approved in November, would make the village responsible for spending a maximum of $70,000 over a seven-year period for walking trails and amenities like a boardwalk, boat and canoe access on the lake and landscaping.
“I think Collin is great builder,” Blackwell said. “I want him to succeed, but I don’t think the village should be developing for him.”
Webster’s project is the first to be considered under the village’s recently adopted Land Development Ordi-nance (LDO). According to the LDO, developers must provide a sketch plan, and then conditions can be added, as the first step in the process. Developers later submit a preliminary plat and a final plat for approval.
Included in the LDO is a Planned Residential Develop-ment Zoning or PRD, which, Webster said, is a tool to encourage developers to think outside the box. Heron’s Brooke is a PRD.
Webster’s sketch plan includes a total of 100 acres, of which 27 acres include a pond and wetlands. The planned development includes single family villas, duplexes and apartments. It also includes open space and a park, which Webster said would be a huge amenity for the village.
Upon learning of the council’s decision, Webster said he was “confused and disappointed.”
“I don’t want to sound bitter about it,” Webster said. “But what the village is telling me, what this council is essentially saying, is that they don’t want this development. They don’t want a public park. I don’t understand the logic.”
During the meeting Dec. 15, the council voted 3-2 to rescind the conditions, with Osborne, Blackwell and Mayor Bob Zschoche voting in favor, and Randy Saunders and Paul Sams voting against.
The previous council had approved the conditions by a 4-1 vote in November. Outgoing council members Skip Gebhardt and Molly Boggis, along with Sams and Saunders, voted to approve the conditions at the earlier meeting. Zschoche cast the lone vote against.
Sams said he was shocked by the turn of events at the December meeting.
“I had no idea,” he said.
Sams said he voted against because he didn’t think it was fair to Webster because he was not at the meeting to discus the project.
“We talked about it for 15 months, and then in 15 minutes it was gone,” Sams said.
“To me, it wasn’t to stop it, but to put it on the table and discuss all the elements,” he said.
Webster said he hopes to start a dialogue again with the council, but he is apprehensive about “walking into another ambush.”
Sue Shuster, interim village manager, said the sketch plan could be back on a future council agenda, but right now the developer and the council have been unable to set a meeting.
“There are no further back-and-forth discussions at this point,” Shuster said.
Contact Tom Embrey at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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