Douglas Council Designates Former Miro Property As "Compact Residential" In Master Plan
Notwithstanding calls from numerous Douglas city residents to designate the 16-acre city-owned vacant land on Wiley Road as a public park, the Douglas City Council moved to designate that property’s future land use as “compact residential,” four units per acre, in its Master Plan.
The 16-acre former Miro Golf Course property was only one item of the Master Plan resolution approved Monday, but it took center stage nonetheless, as a tense work session meeting about the plan was followed immediately by a tense regular council meeting discussion.
“I think you have heard clearly that people want you to make that a park,” Douglas resident Fritz Royce told council during public discussion, echoing the sentiment of others who spoke.
“I am not an economist, but I lived in about eight different communities. Every single one that has diversity thrives,” Douglas City Council Member Kathryn Mooradian said during council comments.
She was responding to concerns from those wanting the park designation as well as alluding to the stated goals of the Master Plan, as articulated by the community at large during public meetings about the “Our Douglas Vision” Master Plan for the last two years: the public at large wants “affordable housing” so attract young families to an area that has an increasingly aging white population.
The Master Plan serves as a “guide” for future land use and development. Those city council members who voted for the Master Plan with “compact residential” as a future use at the old Miro property did so, they said, as a way to keep many options open for the future.
“The intent of that property when we purchased it was that we could use it for several different things for the future,” said Douglas Mayor Pro-Tem Greg Harvath.
“If we restrict ourselves now, we are going to be more limited than now (regarding diverse housing options).”
Not all colleagues agreed. Douglas City Council Members Lisa Greenwood and Bill Japinga were the dissenting voices in the Master Plan vote.
“Our soccer fields are an embarrassment,” said Greenwood, calling for solutions to what she said was a need for more open space around the city for family recreational purposes.
“We represent the taxpayers,” she later said, contending the council was there to act on what local residents wanted because they pay taxes, not consider development for a possible future population.
“High density sends the wrong message. It sends the message we are going to sell it (the old Miro property) and cash in.”
Her comments reflect a lot of what the opposition to the Master Plan stems from: worries the city may sell the property to private residential developers as well as concerns about a transient population and the diminishing of the “small town feel.”
Regardless of how the 16-acres is described in the Master Plan, nothing at this point prohibits the city from constructing a park there in the future, say city officials.
“My kids got excited when they heard this property could become a park. Right now they can’t get to any park without crossing Blue Star Highway,” Douglas resident Erik Nor told council.
Nor and his family also had previously sent letters to the planning commission and city council, and like him, half of the more than 40 residents who sent a letter to the city came from the Wilderness Ridge Subdivision. Many of the others also reside west of the Blue Star Highway and are neighbors to the 16-acre Miro property.
Many signed the same pre-prepared letter, calling for parks and recreation designation and strongly opposing what the letter claims was a “change” in the city’s draft Master Plan to compact residential, a designation “drastically different from the public parks use that was previously communicated to the public” in the 2014 Parks and Recreation Plan.
“I am not against affordable housing,” said Martha Hoexter, a former long-time Douglas City Council member.
“Half the people in the 22 units where I live at on Amity St. (a subdivision) are people who are buying houses and renting them out, they only live there half a year or come just on the weekends,” she said, worried about a transient population and not being able to retain young families.
The council responded. “People are conjuring up this idea that we are going to put up dilapidated housing there. There are so many options out there that will actually enhance your opportunity,” said Harvath.
At Monday’s meeting, council first rejected, in a 4-to-3 vote, the Master Plan as recommended by the Douglas Planning Commission, specifically rejecting the commission’s recommendation to lower the density of the 16-acres to suburban residential (four units per acre).
After further discussion, in a second resolution, the council, in a 5-to-2 vote, moved to adopt the Master Plan so that it reflected the original recommendation of the planning commission: the Old Miro property was designated compact residential, which is eight units per acre.
The commission had recently changed the future land-use designation following expressed concerns by the neighboring residents to the former golf course.