Approve zoning change

EDITORIALS

BY ART CULLEN

On this everyone can agree: Storm Lake needs more housing. That’s essentially why the city council should approve a zoning change to multi-family residential that would allow Mag-Shu Development, a local firm, to build up to five duplexes and eight single-family homes. Neighbors fear that a zoning change from R1 (single-family) to R3 (multi-family, which allows duplexes but also apartments) could result in a mobile home court or apartment complex being plopped down in Emerald Park along Hwy. 110. R2, which would not allow apartments, won’t work because of odd lot sizes, city officials report.

The neighbors should put their fears aside and consider:

• The developers have pledged that they will build duplexes and not apartments. They say they want to market the duplexes to senior citizens. There is no reason not to believe Mag-Shu. They are good people just trying to make an important investment work. They are willing to sign covenants barring apartments.

• The site is appropriate for duplexes. Actually, it would be a good site for a small senior apartment pod. There are apartments in Emerald Park in which fine, upstanding people live. They contribute to the neighborhood. But apartments are not in the plan.

• The developer already has installed infrastructure that will support the plat only for its intended use. It will not support apartments or a mobile home park. The city will not allow development of apartments or a trailer court given the existing infrastructure without a special permit process that would allow for neighbor objections.

As a practical matter, we know how the site will be built and marketed. It seems beyond the pale that new duplexes would be built at $250,000 each and then razed 10 years later to put in mobile homes — with entirely new infrastructure. Yes, in 50 years when all the neighbors have met their heavenly reward those places could be torn down and replaced with apartments so high you could see the lake. And the Cubs might win the World Series every year until then.

Storm Lake adds an average of nine housing units a year. A report commissioned by the council says that The City Beautiful needs at least 600 more units. Anyone trying to rent a place knows. You can barely find anything in Storm Lake or Alta for sure, and Early is tight. The study probably shoots low, since its authors make their assumptions on US Census data that is conservative by at least 25%. The city would do well to consult with Iowa State University Extension demographers who can provide much better demographic projections than what the council received.

Or, they could look up the Storm Lake Multiple Listing Service website, which shows a total of 38 homes for sale — two of which are priced below $100,000, which is what we consider a starter home. Build 12 units for seniors and you free up a dozen starter homes. The Realtors will love it. So will hard-working families wanting to plant roots in our hometown.

If the council members read the report for which they paid $5,000, they will come to the conclusion that this development must go forward. The study says that more senior housing is most urgently needed, which makes sense given that the Baby Boomers like us are booming into dotage.

Precious little development has gone on in Storm Lake for the past 30 years. If this city wants to grow, and grow it must or die, then it must provide a roof over our heads. We need every new lot we can develop. The city council should approve the Mag-Shu development for duplexes and single-family homes.

In memory of Danny Pearl

The press takes its lumps from politicians and the public, as it should. We’re big boys and girls. We can take a punch. President Trump hits below the belt. Here’s what the whiner-in-chief told drooling sycophants in Phoenix on Wednesday, regarding the free press in America: “These are really, really dishonest people and they’re bad people and I really think they don’t like America,” Trump roared.

Every time we hear him speak this way, which is often, we are reminded of Daniel Pearl of The Wall Street Journal. He was the newspaper’s South Asia Bureau Chief in 2002. He was reporting on terrorists in Pakistan — a reporter working for freedom — when he was kidnapped by Pakistanis, held for nine days and beheaded on the accusation that he was a spy.

And we are reminded of CBS News correspondent Lara Logan, who was arrested by a corrupt Egyptian government, blindfolded and handcuffed while her driver was beaten on Feb. 3, 2011 during the Arab Spring. On Feb. 11 she was raped on Tahrir Square in Cairo in a crowd of 300 men. They tried to pull her body apart until riot police finally interrupted them. Yet she reports to this day. What a woman of courage.

Danny Pearl and Lara Logan were good, honest journalists reporting from the front lines of freedom. And there are thousands of others like them plying their trades in big towns and small, for newspapers and radio stations, who are all committed to fairness and honesty and standing up to porcine blowhards who brag about grabbing women by the genitals and who utter despicable lies with every foul breath. We will survive this oaf, this liar, this prevaricator who besmirches the memory of Danny Peal, Ernie Pyle and Tom Paine. They are American heroes, patriots in a way that this President could never appreciate. He would not have the moral foundation to conceive of it.