Over the past months, citizens of Belle Plaine have heard and read a great deal about the serious concerns associated with the proposed two 36-unit apartment buildings at 561 Elk Street S. The concerns are varied in nature, not just the outlay of taxpayer-generated front money (approximately $1 million) to a developer whose work history is of questionable quality, the lack of an aesthetic fit of 3-story apartment buildings in an area of already established single family homes, but, most importantly, the likelihood of serious safety issues related to the project and its layout.
The safety issues include the absence of pedestrian sidewalks into and from the proposed development; the restricted size of the only road into and out of the same area; the tight area around the two buildings for Emergency Services vehicles and personnel, for Fire Emergency and suppression vehicles and for Law Enforcement patrolling and response; the amazing lack of elevators in the proposal to serve the 3-level buildings; a questionable number of water hook-up points to deal with a major fire; units proposed to be smaller than required by code; and the possibility of no on-site manager “24-7” to respond to serious problems.
Cause for concern? One would surely think so!
We read a treatise several months back about varying views of what Belle Plaine should look like or become some day; some mention of the workforce of the future being available to draw new businesses? To some that might have sounded a bit backwards but who knows. Still pursuing that line of thought, it would seem reasonable to locate the 2 apartment buildings on open land bounded by a couple of full-sized city streets with sufficient acreage to avoid crowding around the buildings and to allow for multiple access points and a network of sidewalks into and around the complex. Elevators would be included and sufficient hydrants to furnish all the water needed to quickly beat down a serious fire.
Does such a desirable property exist? Sure it does! There are several R-7 multi-family zoned parcels around the edge of Belle Plaine that would be more appropriate building sites for a serious developer. They would also provide a safer venue for such a complex!
Does this make abundant sense? Should the safety factor override cost and/or politics? Of course it should! Let’s all voice our concerns on this critical issue. Belle Plaine deserves nothing less.
John and Kathy Esgar,