By Ben Rodgers
HOBART – A public hearing drew concerns and criticism for the Hobart village board on Tuesday, April 17.
The public hearing was in regards to Cross Country plat, a 16-lot, single-family-dwelling subdivision proposal located near Rolling Heights and North Overland Road. It is being developed by Frank Burkel.
The issue at hand was the rezoning of parcels from agricultural to rural residential.
The proposal includes six lots that are 1 acre, compared to the neighboring lots, which are all 2.5 acres.
“This affects my entire neighborhood. It doesn’t affect just the adjacent lots, and it does so because of the groundwater,” said Jim Reigel, a resident from the area. “Groundwater is a serious, serious issue. Hobart has had a 2.5-acre restriction (on lot sizes). I’ve been in this neighborhood over 30 years. Everybody has abided by that 2.5-acre restriction. We have people in the neighborhood with holding tanks, with mound systems. Everyone has abided by this because they know how fragile the groundwater is.”
Board President Rich Heidel said at one point in time there was such a restriction village-wide on how large a lot had to be, but that has since been abandoned in hopes of spurring development.
“This village codified smaller lot sizes despite the claims to 2.5 acres for years,” Heidel said. “It’s a matter of public knowledge and public record.”
Reigel went on to say small lot sizes make it harder to install septic systems, which if not done properly could lead to contaminated ground water.
“The bottom line is this is a high, high risk and I am officially saying this should be taken as legal notice of liability,” Reigel said. “It’s appropriate for a citizen to be able to say this. I would like the record to show this, that Hobart has a huge liability here if it goes forward with this development as it’s presented.”
He went on to say larger lot sizes would allow for more room for drilling wells and for the installation of private on-site waste treatment systems (POWTS), which would eliminate the potential contamination problem.
Steve Bieda, a professional land surveyor with Mau and Associates, said there is a process in place for septic systems.
Every lot will have a test done to determine if that lot can support a POWTS prior to the plat being approved.
A sanitary permit is then issued by Brown County, the village then issues a building permit and then a county inspector comes in to inspect the POWTS.
He also said technology has also come a long way in making septic systems safer for groundwater.
“I’ve been doing this for about 30 years and through my time in doing this, nearly every community in the area has reduced their lot sizes… because the ability to put in higher-quality, better septic systems has come so far in the not too distant past,” Bieda said.
The state has also reduced the area needed for the POWTS and Brown County has in turned reduced its subdivision ordinance down from 1 acre to 20,000 square feet, said Allyn Danhoff, director of neighborhood services.
“As long as the wells and the sanitation systems that will be required for the proposed plat conform to the applicable regulations, there should be a confidence that the state’s regulations will protect the groundwater and provide for the health and safety, as those rules are designed,” Danhoff said after the meeting.
Heidel said, as an engineer, he doesn’t have the professional knowledge of sanitary sewer systems, but he has no immediate concerns over the development.
“I was no more concerned about groundwater in this situation as I was in any other instance,” Heidel said. “We do comply with state and federal law here, as we do in all other situations.”
He also said while he respects Reigel, it’s best for citizens to research all sides of an issue before coming to the board.
“Because Jim says ‘A, B or C,’ that doesn’t mean ‘A, B or C’ is true,” Heidel said. “It’s a point of view, it’s an opinion. I find it risky behavior to get everyone in a state of frenzy over something a lot of people don’t understand.”
The board agreed to postpone action on the rezoning to the May 1 meeting, which in turn postponed final plat approval for the development to the same meeting.
Both will be discussed as old business at that meeting.
In other news, following a closed session, the board approved the purchase of a 3-acre parcel on Riverdale Drive, and an option to purchase with VMI Real Estate, Inc. for a possible development in the Southern Business Park.
The board also approved moving forward with an appeal of a recent municipal court decision in the case of Village of Hobart vs. Bodart Electric.