The Decorah City Council could consider a site plan for a three-story, 60-unit apartment complex at its Monday, July 1, meeting.

The Decorah Planning and Zoning Commission unanimously voted Monday night to recommend the Council approve the plan for the 3.8-acre property located along Serenity Drive on the west side of Decorah. (Commission member Ross Hadley was absent).

The recommendation is subject to the developers providing a performance bond, in an amount yet to be determined, to ensure public improvements they are required to do are completed, according to City Manager Chad Bird. They include fire hydrants and sidewalks.

"Hopefully we can have that information completed by the July 1 Council meeting, tentatively," Bird said.

Traditions LLC purchased the property from Eldon Tucker and Northern Iowa Development Company, in July of 2008 and in the past has proposed low-income and assisted living complexes for the site, which have been rejected by the Council.

The current proposal calls for "market rate apartments," Bird explained, meaning there is no housing assistance provided for residents.

Brian Solsrud of Bergen Financial Markets in Minneapolis is the principle developer for the project, Bird said.

Bird said the site plan meets the city code's storm water, parking and green space requirements. Bird said he has asked the developer to enhance an emergency access on the south side of the property. He said he hopes to have more information on that request by the time the Council considers the site plan July 1.


Bird said the Traditions site also needs to be replatted before the apartment project can go forward.

It was originally platted for condominium units.

"Some of the easement in place are no longer needed and it will need to be replatted ... that will run concurrently and separately from the site plan process," he said.

Neighboring property owners attended the Commission meeting, and their attorney, Karl Knudson of Decorah, submitted documents before the meeting detailing why the site plan should not be approved. He noted throughout the years, the Commission has spent considerable time considering, then approving amended site plans for the Traditions property only to see its recommendation rejected by the Council.

The attorney said the Council is aware of the history of the property, when Eldon Tucker and Northern Iowa Development obtained approval of a site plan for a condominium project "largely funded with a $416,132 tax increment financing agreement from the city in return for agreements to scale back the development to provide less density and a more aesthetically- pleasing development."

Knudson said he believes the Council wants to make sure those agreements are honored.

Traditions first proposed a 66-unit assisted living facility, which was rejected by the Council on a 7-0 vote.

The problems posed by the new site plan for a 60-bed apartment complex are nearly identical to the problems the City Council identified with the previous proposal, Knudson said.

Knudson said the Traditions request, which includes a lot with 122 parking stalls, would "breach" all previous agreements reached between the neighbors and Tucker, including developing dedicated open space areas.

And because the proposed apartment complex is within the city flood control system, Knudson said the city has the right to require Traditions make special provisions for flood control and to ensure the new development will neither be subject to flooding, nor will place other properties at increased risk for flooding.

"The city should not approve a site plan for further high-density residential development designed to house 60 units within this flood prone area," Knudson wrote.