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Preliminary townhome proposal frustrates neighbors

NEWPORT — A preliminary proposal made back in April has caused waves among many in Newport, especially those living along the Mississippi River's edge.

Developer Mark McCain inquired at the April 5 Newport Economic Development Authority meeting about possibly constructing a planned unit development (PUD) along the river in the Mill Pond area. He suggested twin homes targeted at empty nesters looking to downsize, for around $400,000 to $450,000.

The developer would have to purchase parcels of city-owned land and some private property to gather enough for a PUD.

The developer has not submitted an official application.

"I want to emphasize we have not seen any application for this, it could change if he decides to come forward," said City Planner Sherri Buss, a contractor with TKDA. "But like a lot of land owners and developers, he came to city staff just to ask about what the zoning and the area would be in."

Buss gave a presentation Aug. 2 on PUDs and the shoreline overlay ordinance that would inform development near the Mill Pond.

Because of the shoreline overlay, there has to be at least 50 percent of the area left as conservation. The Mill Pond would be included in the conservation.

Under the shoreline ordinance, the minimum number of units must be five, but can be no higher density than 50. The further the river is from the PUD, the higher the density can go.

Former City Council member Pauline Schottmuller, who lives along the river, also gave a presentation June 21 arguing the PUD is inappropriate in an area zoned as it is. The area known as old town Newport is zoned R-1A, or low-density river residential.

"If you allow this spot-zoning here, what's to stop someone else from coming in and going 'You know what? I bought this property and this is how I can make the most money on it,'" she said during her presentation.

Other residents shared her concern during the Aug. 2 meeting.

"I think there's several properties like mine along the shoreline here in Newport and ... if the city and the higher powers that be will support more of this cluster development, then I don't know why the citizens who already own property here in Newport wouldn't develop their properties in a way that we don't become a shoreline of multiple dwellings," said Amy Zortman, who lives along the shoreline. "Is that the way we're intending to all go?"

Mayor Dan Lund said at that meeting that the issue will be taken up with the Planning Commission if an application comes forward.

"We're going to let the planning commission do the planning commission's job, if and when we get an application," Lund said.

Public hearings are required for PUDs, at both the Planning Commission and City Council.

Schottmuller said at the end of her June 21 presentation that she will continue opposing the development if it moves forward.

"If it gets past that, then it's going to become a court case, because this is my property value we're talking about," she said.

Pavement management

The Newport City Council is reviewing streets for 2019 pavement management, in light of this possible development. If the developer comes to the city with a formal application next year, Hill said they would be ready to build with the streets redone by that time.

The proposed streets are:

• 10th Street from Fourth Avenue to the end of the road at the Mississippi River

• Ninth Street from Fourth to Second Avenue

• Second Avenue from Ninth to 10th Street

• Third Avenue from Ninth to 10th Street

The reconstruction could also include replacing or repairing utilities.

The total cost of reconstruction is estimated to be $1.6 million, with just short of $1.1 coming from assessments and the city. The developer would be expected to pay just over $500,000.

Third Street and 10th Street would need utility extensions.

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