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DL council approves West Lake Drive plan: Public hearing on proposed plan lasts over two hours

Following well over two hours of questions and commentary from the public, the Detroit Lakes City Council voted 5-2 to adopt the West Lake Drive Redevelopment Plan on Tuesday night.

At a special council meeting that was called to receive public comments on the proposed plan, Corey Scott of RDG Planning & Design summarized the 88-page document, and also outlined the yearlong process that had gone into its preparation, which included multiple focus group meetings, design workshops, open houses for public input, steering committee meetings and a council work session, leading up to its approval by the Detroit Lakes Development Authority, Planning Commission and finally, the council.

After Scott finished his summary, Mayor Matt Brenk invited first questions, then commentary from the audience, which filled pretty much every seat in the council chambers.

Questions ranged from port-a-potty usage along the beach to what role property tax and/or sales tax revenue would play in paying for some of the proposed improvements.

Scott admitted they were unable to find a "perfect solution" to the port-a-potty issue, but added that some type of screening structure might help alleviate some of the problems associated with their use.

City Administrator Kelcey Klemm addressed the tax question, noting that "each (development) project has its own funding stream, with some projects, like road and utility improvements, being funded through a combination of grants and tax revenue, and others being funded through public-private partnerships.

"There are a variety of different funding sources (used) depending upon the type of project it is," he added.

Some projects, like the renovation or replacement of the Pavilion — considered a historic landmark by many — and the possibility of future commercial development of the Washington Ballpark area, which is a source of considerable community pride for others, drew mixed commentary.

"Washington Ballpark is near and dear to my heart," said local resident Bob Bekkerus. "It's one of the finest places to play ball anywhere."

He also pointed out that the ballpark and Pavilion had both been developed in an area that was once swamp land, which meant that any future commercial or residential development in that area was likely to cause "massive problems" with regard to things like drainage and settling (both of which have plagued the Pavilion structure for many years).

Alderman Bruce Imholte responded directly to Bekkerus' comments, asking "how much are you willing to spend, as a taxpayer, to fix up that grandstand (at the ballpark)?"

Imholte also noted later in the meeting that he felt those who were speaking out about wanting the city to preserve historic places like the Pavilion and Washington Ballpark should also be willing to "step up" and help fund those projects with their taxes, or donations.

Other topics touched on during the public hearing included the American Legion Campground, with several residents speaking out in favor of keeping it, and the preference of some local residents to keep the beach, city park and Washington Ballpark as untouched and family-friendly as possible — while others were in favor of making it more of a tourist destination.

In the end, the council voted to approve the plan as presented, with aldermen Imholte and Voss casting the only dissenting votes.

Imholte said he wasn't against the plan, but he felt some more time should be taken to review the public comments before approving it. Voss, meanwhile, was not in favor of certain aspects of the plan, such as the possibility of raising the maximum height of buildings in that zone to 60 feet (an ordinance change that is already under review by the city), and the possibility, though remote, of losing the Legion campground to residential development..

After the vote, the council also dealt with a few other agenda items, including:

• A resolution to adopt proposed future land use amendments to the city's Comprehensive Plan, which was approved unanimously.

• A couple of quotes for improvements at Freeman Arena, including the installation of tempered glass throughout the facility, and replacement of a furnace in the main lobby/locker room area. The improvements to Freeman Arena, which were also approved unanimously, amounted to just under $60,000.

Vicki Gerdes

Staff writer at Detroit Lakes Newspapers for the past 17 years, currently editor of the entertainment and community pages as well as covering city council and the Lake Park-Audubon School Board. Living in DL with my cat, Smokey.

(218) 844-1454
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