An area business owner has withdrawn a rezoning request after receiving negative feedback from neighbors and county officials.
Deb Keefe, owner of Chimney Rock Campground in Bluffton, withdrew her request to rezone her campground from A-1 agricultural to C-1 highway commercial during a public hearing on the matter at the Winneshiek County Board of Supervisors meeting Monday.
The supervisors were considering Keefe's request to change the zoning to allow for three permanent cabins, five RV pedestals, a Quonset hut for ag storage and equipment, and an expanded recreation room and shower house to include a convenience store with food and drink. Last month, the Winneshiek County Planning and Zoning Commission recommended the supervisors deny the request on an 8-1 vote, following a public hearing where a variety of Keefe's neighbors expressed concerns about the fact additional cabins would increase the amount of traffic, noise and garbage in the area.
Many of the same neighbors expressed the same concerns to the Board of Supervisors.
Neighbor Dave Reis said he believes in keeping wild areas wild.
"Another campground farther up the river has campers parked there year-round. It's an eyesore," said Reis.
Kirsten Heine, who lives near Chimney Rock, said the river is a "special treasure" for Northeast Iowa and invited the Board to "come and view what river usage has become."
Brian Fankhauser of the Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation said his organization's concerns regarding zoning include: pollution, excessive use, degradation and additional trash, all of which prevent the quiet enjoyment of the river by the public and neighboring landowners.
He added the county should think about whether or not commercially zoning the area would be inconsistent with county's comprehensive plan.
Heine expressed concerns about Keefe's request for a convenience store, considering the fact Keefe has a liquor license.
"Drunkenness is a huge problem. Many neighbors in Bluffton won't let their families use the river. It's over the top," said Heine.
Keefe explained in 18 years of owning the campground, she has never sold alcohol to anyone.
"Last year I applied for a to-go liquor license for Harvest Festival. Eight people were there and stayed in cabins. I did not sell any alcohol," she said.
Keefe added her "convenience store" request on her application is to provide useful items for campers.
"Things like frozen pizzas and popcorn ... items campers would buy," she said.
Several neighbors and friends also spoke in support of Keefe's request.
"My husband and I have camped at Chimney Rock for over 20 years and chose to build our home in this area ... We have never had any issues ... I sit on the tailgate of my truck and listen to the music. It is a quiet, restful place to be," said Jeanie Ruiz.
When Keefe's daughter, Katie Wood, said it is not her family's intention to build a gas station or restaurant, John Hall responded:
"I think Deb's intensions are clear. Intentions have nothing to do with the issue. But once (the area) is opened up to commercial development, all the things we just talked about that she doesn't want to do would be possible," said Hall.
Supervisor Dean Thompson said he agreed with Hall. Because Keefe's application had not changed since the P & Z recommended to deny it, he said he could not go against their recommendation.
"I think it is scattered and spot-zoning, in my limited knowledge of the subject," said Thompson.
Supervisor Mark Kuhn agreed.
"I wish she would have come forward with maybe something else. It's too vague," said Kuhn.
When Keefe asked the Board if she could submit a new request that just the land under the three cabins be rezoned, Zoning Administrator Tony Phillips explained that would require a completely new application.
When Board Chair John Logsdon asked if she would be willing to go back and re-file, Keefe said she would and withdrew her application.