Published On: Thu, Jul 18th, 2013

Heated debate arises over new apartments

LAUREL — A new apartment project has caused some concern for local residents.

Angel View Apartments is a current project of Regg Pehrson, who has been seeking approval from the city council. The project will be located on Fourth and Elm. However, the plans have caused some concerns.

Pehrson has been going over many concerns regarding the location, parking and the living situation that will be created.

The driveway will be about 20-feet wide, he said, so there will be plenty of room for tenants to get in and out.

One concern was raised for a nearby drainage ditch near the property, which Pehrson said shouldn’t be an issue. Snow in the nearby alley was also brought up, but confirmation was made that it is cleared during the winter months when necessary — so it shouldn’t be an issue for the tenants.

Pehrson is currently looking at producing five duplex style units, three with two bedrooms and two with three bedrooms. He said with that many rooms, one can estimate the need to park up to 10 vehicles in the lot. He said plenty of room will be available, as well as room for visitor parking.

Another concern involves the lack of a back or front yard for children, but Pehrson said the main target for these apartments may be for senior citizens. The location in particular is convenient for seniors because it is close to downtown and their necessities.

“Hopefully, maybe we can attract [seniors] to free up houses in town to make room for families,” he said.

He also intends to raise the lots, both north and south, especially since the north lot is in a flood zone. From this, some neighbors raised some concerns at the meeting.

One neighbor was concerned about the quality of the neighborhood. He said he’d seen landlords who rented the same property in the past, lower their standards and witnessed the tenants cause trouble.

“I just don’t want to deal with that,” the neighbor said.

Pehrson assured him this would not be the case, and he would be strict with his tenants and intolerant of problems.

“We want everybody happy,” Pehrson said. “We don’t want a war down the road.”

Jim Casey, a former council member and landlord, said he was on the council when zoning regulations were passed.

Zoning is another issue surrounding the apartments being worked out because the project is located in an R1 zone, which doesn’t include apartments, Mayor Mark Patefield said. Special use exceptions have to be granted in order to allow the project, he said.

“[Pehrson] as a businessperson, me as a businessperson—We don’t do that,” Casey said.

Casey disagrees with the zone being appropriate for the apartments. He said many other more practical locations are available.

“I was on the council when the zoning was passed and we did that for a reason,” Casey said.

Council member Jerry Weimers said if zoning exceptions begin to be made for projects, a precedent could be set.

“How, as a community, do we handle that if we start making exceptions to the zoning?” he asked.

Seniors don’t typically live in three bedroom apartments, according to another neighbor. Another suggested the lot would make a nice duplex.

Pehrson and the council postponed any permits to be sought while he works closely with the neighbors, to address their concerns and make a decision on the best solution.