MUSCATINE, Iowa — Muscatine County will move forward in its joint effort with the city of Muscatine to secure state funding for a series of tourism and recreational projects.
At its regular meeting Monday morning, the Muscatine County Board of Supervisors unanimously approved an application to the Iowa Department of Economic Development for a Community Attraction and Tourism (CAT) program grant.
"This has been very good for the communities in Iowa," Muscatine County Conservation Board Director Curt Weiss told the board of supervisors of the CAT program.
Weiss also noted that the application process for the grant money this year might be competitive because this is the final year for the CAT grant in its current format.
The county is seeking funding for facilities valued at $1 million for the county-operated Deep Lakes Park. Those improvements would include the construction of four rentable cabins, a large picnic shelter, restrooms and outside showers, and a beach. The county opened the park, a former gravel quarry, last year.
"Even as rustic as it is [now], it's very popular," Board Chair Kas Kelly said.
A special meeting of the county's conservation board later in the day finalized the type of improvements the county would request funding for, such as changing an initial request for a campground at the park to having the four cabins. The campground plan would have increased the cost of the project to $1.4 million. The conservation board also approved allocating $50,000 from its reserve funds for a local match to the grant.
This request is in conjunction with the city's efforts to fund what it calls the third phase of the Pearl of the Mississippi Program. In addition to Deep Lakes Park, the group of projects—valued around $10 million overall—includes Phase III of the Muscatine Soccer Complex, the Musser Park to Wiggens Road Trail, a no-leash dog park and improvements to the Muscatine Art Center.
Both the city of Muscatine and Muscatine County are seeking around $3.5 million in state funding for the projects, having secured the remaining funds through local matches. The Muscatine City Council unanimously approved its application to the program for those projects at its meeting last Thursday. Muscatine City Planner Andrew Fangman said the state would likely make a decision on the grants sometime this spring.
The board rejected the second of three readings of an ordinance amendment aimed at changing zoning rules involving M-1 Mobile Home and Travel Trailer District provisions, which would have allowed it to identify mobile home sales as a “Uses Permitted," and to identify rental storage units and automobile sales and service as “Special Uses Permitted."
The measure came before the board at the request of Tim McCleary, the owner of the M&W Trailer Park in Muscatine County, who was seeking to start a small auto sales and service operation near that trailer park on M-1 zoned land.
While the board approved the first of those readings at its Jan. 5 meeting, members this week said they had a change of opinion after taking time to think about the issue.
"The more I looked at it, the less I liked it," Supervisor Scott Sauer said.
Sauer and Supervisor Jeff Sorensen said while they did not have a problem with allowing mobile home sales in M-1 zones, they believed the other proposed special uses, including auto sales and service and storage, would not be appropriate for that zone. Sauer suggested the property owner might consider rezoning the property in question as C-2 commercial, which would allow for all of the proposed uses.
Kelly asked whether rezoning McCleary's property would be considered spot zoning (a zoning location nearby property that does not fit planning or zoning restrictions). Zoning Administrator Jodee Stepleton said there were other commercial zones near the location.
In the end, only Sorensen voted in favor of the second reading, with Supervisors Sauer, Bob Howard, Matt Bonebrake, and Kelly voting against it. Sorensen said he would like to get the opinion of County Attorney Alan Ostergren on the issue before considering any further action.
In addition, the board:
- Heard from Information Technology Director Bill Riley that he is researching possible options that would allow county residents to pay various fees online and would likely present information to the board in February.
- Rescheduled a public hearing on a proposed amendment to Title III, Chapter VI — Construction Codes and Enforcement, at 9 a.m. Monday, Jan. 19, which was originally scheduled for Jan. 12. The amendment was intended to bring county codes up to date with the National Electrical Code of 2014. Stepleton said the delay was needed to comply with state regulations on publishing notices of meetings.
- Appointed David McCullough, of Conesville, to the Conesville Benefited Fire District for a term ending Dec. 31, 2017, subject to approval by the Louisa County Board of Supervisors. The board selected McCullough over fellow volunteers Richard Buser and Lynn Murphy, both of Conesville.
- Appointed Rebeckah Allgood, of Wilton, to the Muscatine County Historic Preservation Commission for a term ending Jan. 1, 2016. She was the only volunteer for the position.
The board is expected to begin discussions regarding the 2015-16 fiscal year budget Monday, Jan. 19, with those discussions extending throughout the week.