Peosta landowners weigh in against potential zoning district

PEOSTA, Iowa — City of Peosta officials have an eye on the city’s long-term future, but the complexities of zoning for that future recently went on display.

During a Peosta City Council meeting, more than 40 people attended a series of public hearings related to rezoning and a potential planned unit development in an area south of Burds Road. Landowners in the proposed Planned Unit Development, who were annexed into Peosta last year, expressed opposition and dissatisfaction with communication.

PUDs are zoning districts that encourage development meeting public needs with a variety of building types and land uses outside of traditional zoning rules.

The council approved a comprehensive plan and parks master plan in May outlining goals that include the development of a city center and central activity district.

In July, consultants RDG Planning and Design presented a vision for “Water’s Edge,” an area the city believes could someday become a town center. The comprehensive plan identifies a PUD as a way to ensure future development aligns with those goals.

The area is between Burds Road, U.S. 20 and Cox Springs Road. The land currently is primarily agricultural, though it also includes Peosta Mini Storage. A future land use map adopted in May shows the area becoming a central activity district with a park, new streets and greenways.

Current landowners, including Burds Family Investments Limited Partnership; Deb McDonough, owner of Peosta Mini Storage; and Mary Ann Kalb, who lives in the proposed PUD, shared their concerns at the meeting about what a PUD would mean for them.

The area was annexed into the city in October 2020 and zoned as an A-1 Agricultural district.

Because McDonough’s business predates annexation, she is allowed to continue operating as she has been, but she cannot expand her business without having her land switched to a commercial zoning classification.

However, if the area around the storage business develops as proposed, it would lie in the path of a natural extension of Belo Drive.

In July, McDonough applied for her property to be rezoned to a general commercial district.

The Planning and Zoning Commission had recommended the City Council accept the rezoning request. However, council members tabled McDonough’s request at their meeting. Council Member John Kraft suggested the city continue working with McDonough to see if they can find a feasible solution for both her and city officials’ desires.

Three letters written by Kalb, Gary and Terry Burds and McDonough, who also spoke in person, were read in opposition to a PUD.

“We, as the owners of the property, contend the city cannot impose this PUD that designates land for public use without first owning the property or having a stated plan to do so,” Gary Burds said following the meeting.

During the meeting, Mayor Jim Merten noted that development does not require the city to own the land.

“Individual people own land, individual people sell land, developers buy land and they develop land,” Merten said. “All that the city is doing is putting a zoning ordinance (in place) that says these are the restrictions on how it can be developed.”

Merten also clarified that the City Council has not yet voted on the issue. Merten described a continual process of seeking feedback and then refining plans.

“Somehow between the last (feedback stage) and this one, this has become adversarial,” Merten said. “But no action has been taken on the PUD by this council, nor has there been action threatened.”

Merten said during the meeting that the city will continue to work with the community. Following the meeting, Kraft agreed.

“Our goal is to make sure this plan is amicable to everyone involved,” Kraft said.