WAHOO – It was like deja vu.
In September, the Saunders County Board of Supervisors approved the preliminary plat for the Whispering Ridge Estates subdivisions to be located outside of Leshara Township.
Seven months later, the county board approved the final plat in a 4-3 vote on April 6. In both situations, the board had recommendations to deny the plats from the Saunders County Planning Commission, held public hearings at the fairgrounds and added specific stipulations.
With approval of the preliminary plat in September, developers had four objectives they had to complete before the county board could approve the final plat.
Those objectives included approval from the Mead Volunteer Fire Department, space for vehicles to turn around at the end of lot 26, 24-foot wide roads with no shoulders and clarification on a drainage study. Supervisor Dave Lutton, then-Supervisor Ed Rastovski, Supervisor Scott Sukstorf, Supervisor Frank Albrecht and Supervisor Craig Breunig voted in favor of the preliminary plat with stipulations in place.
The late-Supervisor Larry Mach voted against the motion because of a lack of transparency from the applicants and not providing adequate time for the commission to go over important paperwork.
He was joined by Supervisor Chairperson Doris Karloff in the vote against the plat. For Karloff, the commission’s recommendation to deny the application was an issue for her because of the work they have done in relation to this application.
“I want the planning and zoning board to know that we appreciate what they do,” Karloff said.
During the April 6 meeting, Karloff’s vote didn’t change just as the planning commission’s recommendation made on March 1 didn’t change.
During the public hearing on April 6, the county board heard from a range of speakers both for and against the subdivision who also made appearances at the Sept. 1 meeting.
Whispering Ridge Estates representative Jovan Lausterer of the law offices of Bromm Lindahl Freeman-Caddy and Lausterer discussed the history of the subdivision to inform supervisors John Smaus and Tom Hrdlicka, who are new to the board.
Lausterer talked about the four goals that were set during the Sept. 1 meeting, including two that the planning commission felt they did not meet by the March 1 meeting. One of those criteria dealt with the drainage and grading plan and the other was an agreement with the Mead Volunteer Fire Department.
Lausterer said the developers thought they had an agreement with the fire department to install a high capacity well and fire hydrant and the department would agree to maintain it.
Three months later, Mead Fire requested a heated pump house, concrete drive with no less than 10-inches of thickness where the pump house is located and a parking area for large fire apparatuses.
Lausterer said his client felt this moved the agreement into a situation where developers are providing services that the fire district is supposed to provide. He also said the issues may stem from a general dislike of the subdivision plan.
“My belief is because there are just people trying to advocate for the denial of this subdivision,” Lausterer said.
The lack of water in the area continued to be an issue with opponents. The county board heard from Gary Zicafoose, Vicki and Jack Wollen and Saunders County Planning Commission Member Pat McEvoy, who were opposed to the final plat approval.
McEvoy said this would be the first time in his eight years on the planning commission that an application would be approved without the commission seeing a grading plan first.
McEvoy and Planning Commission Member Dean Curtis voted to deny the application on March 1 because it did not meet two of the goals required by supervisors – the agreement with Mead Fire and grading and drainage analysis – and there was no approval from the Lower Platte North Natural Resources District for a high capacity well.
“If everything was met, we would have no choice but to approve it,” McEvoy said.
After almost two hours of discussion, the board closed the public hearing. Karloff reviewed what they knew – the planning commission denied the final plat and the subdivision did not meet all requirements listed in the Sept. 1 meeting.
“I am concerned about the water issue and for the safety and health of the citizens that may be building homes there,” Karloff said. “That’s part of what we are supposed to be looking at is the health and safety of all of our citizens.”
Lutton, who made the motion with stipulations in September, recognized that what had been asked was not completed. He said while they have provided a drainage analysis, it needs to be improved and they need a grading plan.
“It’s really difficult for us at this point because we’re hearing again from you that you will do what we’re requesting, but we haven’t seen that done,” Lutton said.
Karloff asked if there was a motion which resulted in a long pause from the board. Eventually, as he did at the Sept. 1 meeting, Lutton said he believes the subdivision meets the county’s zoning requirements right now, but wanted to add stipulations.
“I think there are things we need as a board if we were to approve this to put into that agreement to protect neighbors, to protect our county,” Lutton said.
Lutton made a motion to approve the final plat with conditions and was seconded by Breunig. Lutton amended the motion to require Whispering Ridge Estates install a hydrant with at least 500 gallons per minute to be used solely for public fire suppression. The final stipulation requires the developer to submit a grading plan and drainage analysis from a licensed engineer before approval of the subdivision agreement.