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Residents push back on proposed subdivision

By Sarah Watson

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    DAVENPORT, Iowa (Quad-City Times) — George Thuenen remembers making sure to avoid playing war games as a kid in the swampy bottom of a sledding hill that’s now a controversial proposed site of a new dense subdivision on the border of Bettendorf and Davenport.

Thuenen, who’ll be 85 this month, called the watery basin of the ravine “mosquitoville,” and has seen his fair share of houses spring up since his family moved in in 1941, when his current home on Bettendorf’s Riverview Park Drive was just a sledding route.

So, when he heard about a new proposed development behind his current home — just a block from where he grew up — he was curious, but the replacement of the wooded area he grew up around didn’t seem to phase him.

“These things come,” he said. “I don’t care. But all I think about that development is that was a swamp down there and wetlands and bugs, and just, I don’t know how they’ll do it.”

The proposed subdivision of 38 homes on seven acres of land straddles the border between Bettendorf and Davenport. That complicates matters, already complicated by steep topography, because both city planning and zoning commissions and city councils have to sign off on the project.

And many residents in the area have concerns and questions about the proposed development. More than 50 people attended a Davenport Planning and Zoning Commission meeting last week to tell commission members and the developer, Kevin Dolan, what they thought.

Residents wondered where water drainage would be, commented that the proposed dense development didn’t meet a provision in city code because it didn’t match the density of the surrounding neighborhood, and worried more cars and heavy construction equipment could wear out the roads and be more hazardous for current residents.

The proposed development would change the grade of a wooded ravine, requiring areas to be filled in and leveled out.

The 38 homes, as of the plan submitted and sent back to the developer for revisions last week, are densely packed villas that would be geared toward seniors wanting to downsize or live in a one-level home, Dolan said.

Entrances to the cul-de-sac are currently planned to be an extension of Crestline Drive and an outlet of Lincoln Road near Kimberly, roads which are in Davenport’s jurisdiction. But 28 of the 38 lots would be in Bettendorf city limits.

Davenport resident Sean Liddell, 44, thinks the city of Davenport will foot the costs of the wear and tear of the streets without much benefit to the city. Construction equipment will travel in and out of narrow Davenport streets during the building process, wearing on residential roads, although most of the houses will be on Bettendorf’s tax rolls.

“The Davenport property allows them to loosen the belt and is really the only shot they have to develop this Bettendorf land,” said Liddell, who was an alderman in Moline before moving to Davenport. “Davenport really suffers because they want to use our existing tiny residential streets, put a lot more traffic on them, put a multi-year intrusion on the Davenport residents and Bettendorf gets to reap the financial benefits with the tax base.”

In pitching the project to the Planning and Zoning Commission on June 15, Dolan said the project would bring in revenue for both cities. The Bettendorf land wasn’t developed for so long, Dolan said, because previous developers looking at the land didn’t have the connecting parcel in Davenport.

“This is a piece of property that’s going to take a lot of work to develop,” Dolan said. “We’re willing to put in that work and get it on the tax rolls and make it a productive piece of real estate for both cities.”

The developer would put in the road, water, sewer, and storm sewer infrastructure, as required by Bettendorf city code, said Community Development Director Mark Hunt. When a subdivision crosses city boundaries, he added, cities typically enter into an agreement as to which city will do road maintenance, plowing, and solid waste connection. That would be the case if the subdivision is approved, Hunt said.

The area is already in a residential zoning district in both cities, meaning Dolan Homes doesn’t have to ask for rezoning, but the area in Davenport has extra requirements developers have to adhere to. Zoning designation Residential-4C, which is where the new development is proposed, requires new homes to “maintain compatibility with adjacent homes and the overall character of the surrounding area.”

Residents like Liddell, and the alderman for the area, don’t think the proposal of dense housing fits in with the neighborhood, and therefore don’t think the area meets the requirements of city code.

Sixth Ward Alderman Ben Jobgen wrote in an email that he’d received a flurry of phone calls and emails from residents, a significant majority of which provided input in opposition of the proposed development. He said he hadn’t received any feedback in favor of the project.

“I agree with those opposing the proposed development,” Jobgen wrote. “I believe there are too many challenges for the developer to meet city code, and I do not believe this development maintains the integrity of the neighborhood.”

Staffs of Davenport and Bettendorf issued a letter June 18 with 18 points of revisions and questions for Dolan. Those concerns and requirements included requiring Dolan to hold a broadly publicized meeting for area residents before the plan could be brought before Bettendorf Planning and Zoning Commission, the next meeting of which is July 21. Dolan said he hadn’t yet set a date for a public meeting.

Bettendorf also required interior sidewalks and a sidewalk along Kimberly Road, which were not included in the initial developer’s plan.

Since the streets will be connected to Davenport, Bettendorf city staff wrote that the city won’t approve streets until approved by resolution by the city of Davenport, putting the ball in Davenport’s court on whether to approve the development.

According to the June 18 joint letter, the southern 120 feet of the Davenport portion of the subdivision and the proposed connection to Crestline Drive “have been deemed unsuitable due to topographic features in their current condition.” The letter states that the land can’t move forward until the developer provides a mass grading plan on how it would eliminate or provide safeguards against the hazardous terrain.

Dolan said that although he isn’t a civil engineer, he’s confident in the grading plan that modifies the topography to make the area buildable. As for stormwater detention system, Dolan said that would be on site, and could either be a wet or dry bottom pond or other system approved by the city engineer. Dolan said the plans had to be approved by city staffs, planning and zoning commissions, and the city councils before it could move forward. That plat doesn’t require a traffic study or to consult with other organizations other than the two cities, such as the Army Corps of Engineers.

Back-and-forths like these between city staffs and developers are common, Hunt said, to make sure developments meet city code.

Hunt added that Dolan has until June 29 to resubmit the plans to get on the July 21 Bettendorf Planning and Zoning Commission meeting. The next Davenport Planning and Zone Commission meeting is July 6.

Dolan said he’s taking community member concerns seriously.

“Absolutely we take those concerns seriously,” Dolan said. “We’re making some modifications to the plan and when we have the neighborhood meeting, they will find that we have made changes to the proposed development that shows we are willing to work with the community.”

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