Re-Zoning May Not Have Been Needed In Rock Rapids For Hope Haven Group Homes

A request to re-zone the properties where two houses are standing in order to let Hope Haven run two group homes in Rock Rapids — was denied Monday night by the Rock Rapids City Council. But, if what we learned at the meeting is true, Hope Haven may not have actually NEEDED to ask for the re-zoning in the first place.

The public hearing was to decide if two properties — 504 South Bradley Street and 1008 South Marshall Streets should be re-zoned from R1-Residential to R2-Residential Multiple. About forty people were in attendance.

Randy Waagmeester with Waagmeester Law Office spoke as the attorney representing several landowners with property surrounding the lots in question. He said that they wanted the council to adhere to zoning regulations and not establish a poor precedent. They were concerned that other properties could be spot-zoned like this and several unrelated adults could live together in the same house. He said that as far as he knew, the properties didn’t fall into the category of residential care facilities. Waagmeester also said the people he represented were concerned about the market value of their homes if the property were re-zoned and the group home became a reality. Waagmeester also mentioned that there are several R2 districts in Rock Rapids already.

The Rock Rapids City Attorney — Mike Austin reported that the planning and zoning commission was against the re-zoning on principal of spot-zoning. They thought that rezoning only the property of the homes to R2, in an area completely surrounded by R1 would set a bad precedent. Austin was also quick to point out that a “no” vote on the rezoning would not mean Hope Haven could not have group homes in Rock Rapids.

Then Rock Rapids resident Heather Springer, who is also an attorney, spoke up. She said that from what she could tell, Hope Haven wouldn’t have needed to even apply for a zoning change, as the city ordinance specifies that in an R1 district — which is how the properties are currently zoned — no more than four unrelated adults who share meals together in a “family setting” may live in the same house. The current plan for the group homes is for four people living in each house. Springer also mentioned that the city council probably does not want to run afoul with the Americans With Disabilities Act, and warned them not to discriminate against persons with disabilities.

While the possibility that Hope Haven did not need a zoning change was valuable information, it did muddy the waters a little as since no one had done research on that issue, no one was willing to stick their neck out and verify what Springer had said. City Attorney Austin did go so far as to say he thinks she is right.

But Austin also reminded the group that the new information was immaterial to the issue on the table — whether to approve or deny the rezoning request.

Calvin Helmus, representing Hope Haven said that the clients that they hope to move into the group homes have lived in Rock Rapids for years, and it it their town. He asked the council and everyone present to give them a chance.

A few citizens spoke up who basically stated that when they purchased their homes, this is not what they bargained for. One woman claimed that she had talked to people who lived near other group homes and claimed that they had said they never used to lock their doors, but now they feel like they have to. People also emphasized a perceived predicted drop in property values if there is a group home in the neighborhood.

In the end, the Rock Rapids City Council did deny the zoning applications. Some members noted that they did this because it was spot-zoning, not to shut out Hope Haven clients. But if what we learned at the meeting is true, it may not matter. Hope Haven may be able to use the houses for group homes without a zoning change.

Photos: Top picture is 1008 S Marshall. Bottom is 504 S Bradley


Sheldon School Board To Talk About Overcrowding At East Elementary

Space consideration at East Elementary School will be one topic of discussion when the Sheldon Community School Board and administrators meet for a work session Wednesday evening.

You may recall that, at the regular monthly School Board meeting held earlier this month, East Elementary Principal Tanya Langholdt had reported to the board on the shortage of classroom space at East for the coming school year. Superintendent Robin Spears told the board that he had done some research into the possibility of adding portable classrooms to handle the space shortage. The School Board decided, at that meeting, to take up the issue at this work session.

The Board will also work on other facility issues, including baseball and softball fields, as well as budgetary planning and financial issues, professional development and instructional issues, and Board policies.

Wednesday’s meeting will begin at 6:00 p.m. in the Sheldon High School Library.


Second Teen Arrested In Connection With Car Vandalism / TV Theft Case In Rock Rapids

A second teen has been charged in the case of vandalism that occurred in Rock Rapids and a theft from the Rock Rapids Pizza Ranch.
The Lyon County Sheriff’s Office reports that they arrested 18-year-old Louis Reuvers of Rock Rapids. He was charged with Criminal Mischief in the Second Degree, a Class D Felony, and Theft in the Fourth Degree, a Serious Misdemeanor.
Reuvers’ initial appearance is scheduled for Friday March 30,2012
The other teen charged in connection with the crime is 18-year-old Jared Gerloff of Rock Rapids. He is charged with the same charges as Reuvers
Authorities allege Reuvers and Gerloff are responsible for a rash of vandalism of eleven vehicles in Rock Rapids and a theft of a television from the Rock Rapids Pizza Ranch.

Three Injured In Accident Near State Line on Highway 60

Three people, one from Sioux Falls, one from Pennsylvania, and one from South Sioux City were transported to a hospital after an accident near the state line on Highway 60.

The Osceola County Sheriff’s Office reports that about 8 AM on Thursday (3/22), 27-year-old Whitney Lucas of Sioux Falls was driving a 2010 Toyota Prius, southbound on Highway 60, approaching the intersection of 100th Street — the state line road. Thirty-seven-year-old Hussein Warfa of South Sioux City, Nebraska, was driving a 2001 Chevrolet Impala, westbound on 100th Street and pulled out in front of Lucas’ vehicle. The vehicles collided on the highway.

Warfa, Lucas and a passenger in the Lucas vehicle, 23-year-old Tatyanna Fox of Mc Kees Rock, Pennsylvania were all taken to the Osceola Community Hospital.

Lucas’ vehicle sustained about $10,000 damage. Warfa’s vehicle sustained about $5,000 damage.

Warfa was ticketed for Failure to Yield from a Stop Sign.

The Nobles County Sheriff’s office, Minnesota State Patrol, and the Sibley Ambulance assisted the Osceola County Sheriff’s Office at the scene.


Second Teen Charged With Felony After Rock Rapids Vandalism, Theft

A second teen has been charged in the case of vandalism that occurred in Rock Rapids and a theft from the Rock Rapids Pizza Ranch.
The Lyon County Sheriff’s Office reports that they arrested 18-year-old Louis Reuvers of Rock Rapids. He was charged with Criminal Mischief in the Second Degree, a Class D Felony, and Theft in the Fourth Degree, a Serious Misdemeanor.
Reuvers’ initial appearance is scheduled for Friday March 30,2012
The other teen charged in connection with the crime is 18-year-old Jared Gerloff of Rock Rapids. He is charged with the same charges as Reuvers
Authorities allege Reuvers and Gerloff are responsible for a rash of vandalisms of eleven vehicles in Rock Rapids and a theft of a television from the Rock Rapids Pizza Ranch.

Chambers Receives “Uncommon Public Service Award From Herbert Hoover Foundation

A member of the Iowa Air National Guard and a deputy sheriff who also are members of the Iowa legislature are this year’s recipients of the “uncommon public service” award from the Herbert Hoover Foundation. Representative Royd Chambers, a Republican from Sheldon, found out he’d won the award early Monday afternoon when an announcement was made in the Iowa House.

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Chambers, a retired Air Force veteran, is a master sergeant at the 185th Air Refueling Wing in Sioux City. Chambers was first elected to the House in 2002 and missed the 2009 legislative session when he was deployed to Kyrgyzstan.  Chambers says he has taken one of Herbert Hoover’s quotes to heart.

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This year’s “uncommon public service” award in the state senate when to Steve Sodders, a Democrat from State Center who was honored for his work as a state senator, a deputy sheriff and a volunteer fire fighter.