Dunes Approvals

The Dunes received a major subdivision plat approval and site plan approval from the Culver Plan Commission on June 18th and from the Culver Town Council on June 26th. This was somewhat a foregone conclusion since Culver has been working with the developer for over a year on this project. It was interesting though that neither entity passed these approvals unanimously.

The preponderance of people in attendance at the meetings were against the project. Some in its entirety, but most in its scale. Some (falsely in my opinion) called the Town to task for not communicating enough and not listening to concerns. (If there is one thing that I would say Culver is above average in, it’s communication with its citizens…) There were also those that attempted to complain on both sides of the issues, saying it was too big, but might be left incomplete; it was being pushed to quickly, but the developer shouldn’t be give 8 years to complete it; it was not planned to be part of the community, but but it should be connected directly to State Road 17, to direct traffic out of community.

I remain generally in favor of the project. I am a little disappointed in the the follow through on requirements the town had placed on the project. The project presentation to the plan commission has been delayed twice because of engineering questions being unanswered. As presented, at the meeting, most of those were answered “in concept”, but details were still not complete. There were also pending questions regarding the projects connection to South Main Street that were not complete. And then there was the statement from the developer that the town would be receiving a lot of money from increased TIF capture on this project which could be directed towards some of the short falls in water and sewer needs. Many of these things affect adjacent property owners, including a wetlands and the town’s own well field, while the money being proposed for water and sewer improvements had previously been suggested for other TIF district needs not connected to this project. I would have liked to have seen all these things tied down before authorizing them to proceed.

I was pleased that many of the questions from the audience were addressed, but I have concerns with their substantiation. I do not in anyway want to speak ill of the developer and their honesty regarding the project, but the answers given were off-the-cuff, having little if any documentation or requirements of follow-through. Many of the questions were, frankly, not the business of anyone but project investors, but the reassurances carried no weight. While I trust that everything said was in good faith, there is nothing that keeps them from changing direction on them if economics of the project suggest better uses of funds. As suggested here before (second to last paragraph), their development agreement included none of the delineated requirements seen in past agreements.

That said, I think many of those protesting this development fail to understand that this project was not a surprise, but something that has been in the Town of Culver’s plans and one of their goals for over a decade. When the Culver Garden Court property was annexed around 2010, the surrounding property was annexed as well. It was rezoned as R-2 to promote housing in that area. When the last revisions to the Culver Zoning Ordinance were completed, R-2 was rewritten to allow higher density developments. The 2014 Comprehensive Plan suggested, due to citizen input, that more housing is needed. The Stellar Communities surveys of 2016 and 2017 indicated more housing is needed. The 2024 Comprehensive Plan still indicated the need for more housing, even with The Dunes under discussion. This was not a project that required a rezoning or multiple variances to make happen. It fits with the planned development of the town.

Do I think things might have been done better? Always. Until I’m appointed benevolent dictator, I will most likely always see alternatives that I would have pursued. (I still have questions about whether it follows the Culver Complete Streets Ordinance, whether there were drywells added, where they drain and who owned them, and whether the wetlands have been properly addressed, etc.) Do I think those in charge were (mostly) following the will of the majority of citizens? Yes.

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