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  • This article has been updated to correct an error. The vote was 3-2 with Councilors Alcorn and McKinney voting against the motion and Councilors Brent Hodges, Ron Hedenskog and Mayor Jake Pieper voting in favor. We regret the error.
  • The meeting can be watched online HERE

At the end of a marathon 4.5 hour meeting Monday, Aug. 24, the Brookings City Council voted 3-2 to overturn a planning commission denial and allow the development of a 14-unit residential care facility to proceed — with conditions to be finalized at a subsequent meeting. 

Councilors Brad Alcorn and John McKinney voted against the motion, with councilors Brent Hodges, Ron Hedenskog and Mayor Jake Pieper voting in favor. The council plans to meet again at 7 p.m. Monday to consider conditions. (Agenda HERE)

Applicant Brett Kemp and his wife Aga Kemp spoke on behalf of the project they would like to build on property located at 17212 S. Passley Rd. Their .58 acre parcel is in the Dawson Tract area of Brookings, located just to the north of the West Cliff subdivision. 

According to city planning staff, development of a residential care facility is permitted on the lot, which is zoned R-1-6 (residential) if a Conditional Use Permit is granted. Neighbors objected to the development and on July 7 by a vote of 5-2 the city planning commission agreed with them that the project didn’t meet city standards. 

The applicants appealed to the city council. In a staff report, the city council was told that the commission denied the application based on: 

• Size and shape of the “flag lot” — which can only be accessed off of Passley Road by way of a 140-foot long driveway. 

• Relation of streets — the planning commission did not believe the street met standards for commercial vehicles. However, staff reported that Fire Chief Jim Watson assured staff that the 15-foot driveway width would be adequate for emergency vehicles and also that the fire code allows a reduction in driveway width if the building is equipped with a fire suppression system (sprinklers), which staff said would be part of the design. 

• Neighborhood impact — The planning commission found the facility inconsistent with the zoning, although staff said that it is allowed in the zone with a CUP. Neighbors were also concerned about traffic, parking and drainage. 

But the bottom line for the city council may have been the cautionary statement in discussion of neighborhood impact: “Staff believes that denial of the proposal based on this approval criterion could be subject to challenge by the applicant for violation of one or more federal fair housing laws.” 

Indeed, the Kemps did cite such laws in material presented to council, noting that their intent is to provide a home for disabled senior citizens and veterans and that they believe the law is on their side in allowing such a home to be established in a residential neighborhood. 

As part of the official public hearing on the appeal, the council heard testimony from supporters of the project who said such a facility is needed in Brookings and from property owners in the surrounding neighborhood who oppose the development at that location. 

Hedenskog reported that he researched the history of the very narrow private West Cliff Drive and believes that it was intended as a “half street” allowable under city code at the time it was constructed with the intention that the other half would be built when the property to the north was developed. 

However, the street was not dedicated to the city and is maintained by the property owners association. Property owners also dispute a city easement for drainage, although city staff stated they believe the city has the easement that would allow a drainage system to be established for the property to be developed. 

Alcorn and McKinney stated they were concerned about neighborhood impact. Hedenskog suggested eight possible mitigations and city staff will review those prior to the council convening again to finalize approval of the CUP. 

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