RV parks now a permitted use of C-2 properties

A small crowd was once again in attendance at the Holyoke City Council meeting July 21 for a second public hearing regarding an ordinance to add travel trailers and trailer parks as permitted uses of land zoned C-2, commercial.

After community member Roger Hogan expressed his concerns about the ordinance at the July 7 meeting, city council members tabled the matter.

 One of those in attendance July 21 was Nick Ferguson, the developer who is ultimately trying to open an RV park at the far west end of Furry Street. He explained that his goal is to bring two new businesses, the RV park and a laundromat, plus more traffic to Holyoke. His long term goal is to develop a residential area south of the RV park. He believes that, in the long run, it will increase property values.

Jerry Brandt, who lives in the neighborhood, shared some of his concerns with the city council. He wondered if there is an existing zone that already allows RV parks in the area. Attorney Al Wall explained that when the ordinance was passed in 1975, there wasn’t a demand for it, so there has never been a zone set for travel trailers.

Brandt also asked for clarification regarding the current zoning of Ferguson’s property. It is A-O, agricultural and open, meaning that it will need to be rezoned before Ferguson can move forward with his plan.

Stating that he’d spoken to Ferguson about this already, Brandt told council members that he is concerned that Ferguson’s land is already being misused and poorly maintained.

Ferguson explained that someone currently residing in an RV near his storage units on County Road 37 will vacate by the end of July. As for the issue of weeds and dust blowing on the land where he intends to build the park, Ferguson said that he is in the process of letting the seed grass grow out to reseed. He also pointed out that he has already done a lot of work on the property, including  moving 16,000 yards of dirt out there, planting grass and drilling straw to hold it.

Perhaps Brandt’s biggest concern was that the ordinance applies to a large amount of land in Holyoke that is already zoned C-2. He pointed out the vacant block just east of the council chambers on Denver Street. With the new ordinance, it could theoretically be the home of an RV park in the future. Is that something Holyoke wants right on one of its main streets?

Roger and Jennie Hogan reiterated the concerns they shared at the previous public hearing. Approving one RV park will make it difficult to say “no” to another in the future, Roger said. Jennie argued that, with the current RV park available at the fairgrounds, another one isn’t needed.

Ultimately, the council approved the ordinance, adding trailer parks as a permitted use of C-2 properties. Council member Kevin Scott cast the only dissenting vote.

It is worth noting that the listed uses are only permitted in C-2 areas with written approval by the planning commission and the city council. According to the municipal code, requests can only be granted if the following conditions are met:

— The uses should be compatible with all existing uses on land adjacent thereto.

— The use should not unnecessarily scar the land and soil upon which such use is to be placed, leaving deleterious effects, such as denuded slopes, uncovered soil piles to be blown away, scars upon areas of natural beauty and unguarded holes or pits.

— Uses with unsightly aspects, odors or noise must be set back 100 feet from adjacent property boundaries.

— Poles, antennas or towers are not permitted where they would interfere with airfield approach zones.

 

HCCI asks City to apply for DOLA grant

Holyoke Community Childcare Initiative board members Tom Bennett, Trisha Herman, Cathy Harshbarger and Olga Sullivan also attended last week’s city council meeting.

HCCI is currently in the process of planning and raising funds for a $3.5 million child care project. When finished, the 13,000-square-foot facility will have the capacity to serve 100 children and create 15 full-time-equivalent jobs. The site, which is 2.75 acres situated north of Melissa Memorial Hospital, will be donated by MMH.

While HCCI is its own 501(c)(3) operated by its own board, the nonprofit is seeking a collaboration with the City of Holyoke.

The proposal is that the land and child care facility will be owned by the City for 10 years so that the City can apply for a $1.5 million Department of Local Affairs Energy Impact Grant next March for the child care facility. There will be no financial burden on the City, and a grant writer has been hired by HCCI so additional work will not fall on Holyoke’s clerk/treasurer Kathy Olofson. After 10 years, the land and building would be donated to HCCI.

Mayor Orville Tonsing said the council will have an answer for HCCI by the end of August.

 

Council looks to purchase laptops

Also at the July 21 meeting, Tonsing suggested that city council members have laptops for council use. The idea is that COVID-19 may necessitate online meetings at some point. Already, Olofson pointed out, the airport master plan committee, which includes council members, is planning to hold its meetings virtually. Board packets for regular in-person meetings would also be available digitally if council members had laptops.

The cost is expected to be about $1,200 each, but the council hopes there may be COVID-19 funding available to help with the purchase. Olofson will gather more financial information for consideration at the Aug. 4 meeting.

 

Police chief, recreation director report

Chief Doug Bergstrom reported that Holyoke Police Department, including code enforcement, handled or generated 88 calls for service July 2-15. There were five animal complaints and two municipal code violations.

He also reported that, over the weekend, there was a shooting within city limits and that one suspect was in custody.

Recreation director Victoria Dunker reported that her department recently hosted an art camp and cookie class. The art camp had 36 participants over three days, and the cookie class, which was limited due to COVID-19, had 25. The department also hosted the June 29 Root Beer Monday, which is put on weekly by Holyoke Chamber of Commerce.

A total of 63 kids are participating in backyard baseball in four age groups. Hunter Bergstrom and Dylan Miles were approved by the council as paid coaches at $500 each. They are coaching the older baseball players. Volunteers Ashley Clayton and Eric Luedke are coaching the younger players. Dunker also noted that Stan and Barb Kreider volunteered to clean up the ballpark area after high winds blew dirt into the dugouts and the seating area.

Dunker was scheduled to volunteer in the Chamber of Commerce booth at the Phillips County Fair last week as a representative of the City of Holyoke as well.

Flag football is the next recreation program on the calendar, but at the time of the city council meeting, Dunker was still waiting for more information about what the school is planning before making a decision on the season. She did report that the South Platte Youth Football League canceled its season, so she may add more grade levels to flag football this year to give the local SPYFL kids an option.

 

Other business

In other business at the July 21 meeting, council members:

— Agreed to participate in the November coordinated election with mayor and city council candidates as well as a lodging tax question on the ballot.

— Reopened playgrounds.

— Heard from council member Gene Bittner that the DOLA grant application for the fire shed needs to be done by Oct. 1.

— Authorized Olofson to sign the Low-Income Energy Assistance Program vendor agreement.

— Approved a travel request for HPD commander JR Myers to attend FBI Leadership Academy in Fort Collins.

— Approved a purchase request for a new ballistic vest for HPD officer Wyatt Bishop at a cost of about $810.

— Allowed for the hiring of Asphalt Maintenance at a cost of $9,000 to pave at the airport where the old pilots’ lounge and fuel farm were and a strip where courtesy cars can park.

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