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Beaverdale: Rice School Site Redevelopment

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Postby dsmLA on Fri Jan 19, 2007 9:17 am

Just as predicted.

DES MOINES, Iowa -- A Beaverdale group has filed a civil lawsuit against the Des Moines school board because of the board's decision last week to sell the property where Rice Elementary School once stood.

The board voted to sell the four-acre plot at Beaver Avenue and Adams Avenue to Rice Development Partners, which plans to build townhomes and commercial buildings. The land has been used as a soccer field since the school building was torn down.

The group "Save the Green" filed suit Thursday in Polk County District Court saying there was improper notice given of the meeting where the vote was taken to sell the land. The board first voted to sell the land after a public hearing on October 19th. It was later learned that one newspaper notice gave the wrong address for the meeting. So last week, the school board held a new public hearing and again voted to sell the property.


School board president Marc Ward said the lawsuit is groundless and meritless.

Some neighbors near the Rice property oppose the development and say they'd like to preserve the open space.
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Postby Better Life dude on Fri Jan 19, 2007 9:32 am

Lawsuit: Ugh! :x
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Postby Cyclonefan on Mon Jan 22, 2007 6:34 am

Beaverdale folks divided over more development
Some welcome more business; others say it would ruin neighborhood's charm

By PATT JOHNSON
REGISTER BUSINESS WRITER


January 22, 2007
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The changing face of the Beaverdale business district is developing a few wrinkles.

Residents and business owners in the longtime neighborhood, retail and commercial center along Beaver Avenue are divided over whether to leave the homegrown area as is, or to add more retail, commercial and residential development.

"I am just trying to make the neighborhood I grew up in, and work in, better," said Tom Boesen, whose family owns a floral business on Beaver Avenue and has other land and developments in the area. The Boesens have proposed two retail and residential projects in the area. "It needs a face-lift and I want to help plant the seeds," Tom Boesen said.

But proposed developments could change the flavor of the neighborhood, others have said. Residents are buzzing about big developments. A South Dakota real-estate broker is offering to buy out homeowners and businesses near the southwest corner of Beaver and Douglas avenues.

"Beaverdale has a village feel and the idea of making Beaver a business corridor is frightening to me," said George Davis, who with his wife, Jan, owns Grounds for Celebration coffee shop. Davis said he is not against growth, but would prefer to see local merchants move into existing spaces.

There are two distinct business districts in Beaverdale. The north business district includes businesses near Douglas Avenue, like Cooney's bar, El Aguila Real Mexican restaurant and ShortStop gas and convenience store. They cater to commuters passing through.

The southern district, anchored by the intersection of Beaver and Urbandale Avenue, has smaller shops and restaurants including the B&B eatery, the Davises' coffee shop and the Rice Bowl restaurant, which draw customers from the surrounding neighborhood.

"The north end serves a transient customer because of its location to Douglas," Davis said. The southern portion "serves the neighborhood with support services and products," he said. "It doesn't drive the neighborhood, the neighborhood drives the businesses there."

The Beaverdale Business Coalition commissioned a study in 2003 to look at what direction the business district should take.

One of the conclusions was that the area didn't necessarily need a lot more commercial development, but better quality development, said Emily Lawson, a neighborhood activist who grew up in Beaverdale and bought a home there.

"We want to make sure that what comes here looks like it belongs in the neighborhood," she said.

Part of the Beaverdale revitalization includes a streetscape project stretching from Beavercrest Drive to Adams Avenue that would add decorative lighting, new sidewalks, planters, benches and signs.

"We've done a lot of planning on this and it's time to put our money where our mouth is," Lawson said.

Finding funding has been an issue. The city has provided financing for similar projects in the city, like the East Village and the Ingersoll Avenue business district. But "resources are limited," said Michael Ludwig, planning administrator for the city.

Farther north, neighborhood attention is focused at the southwest corner of Douglas and Beaver, and the possibility of a supermarket on seven acres.

That would change the dynamics of the corridor, said Brian Hobbs, who owns the B&B restaurant. "It would result in a lot of faster-moving traffic," he said.

Des Moines City Councilman Tom Vlassis, who represents the area, has gotten calls from people concerned that Hy-Vee wants to build a new store at that site. "I've talked to Hy-Vee and they said there is absolutely nothing they know about it," Vlassis said.

South Dakota real estate broker Mark Norgaard, whose company Web site lists Hy-Vee and Fareway as clients, did not return telephone calls. Hy-Vee isn't talking.

"We don't make any comment on store development until we have everything in order," said Chris Friesleben, Hy-Vee spokeswoman. "We have projects we have been working on for several years and could work on for several more years. Some come together quickly and others take time."

Dean Rottinghaus, who lives on Euclid Avenue in the area, said he signed an option to purchase with Norgaard last February. He renewed the deal in August when it expired.

"They offered a fair price," said Rottinghaus, who said the bid was above his home's assessed value, which is listed on the Polk County Assessor's Web site as $125,400.

Rottinghaus said he was fine with a supermarket in the neighborhood, as were many of his neighbors.

Daniel O'Brien, who operates O'Brien Auto Repair at 4414 Douglas Ave., has also been contacted by the broker. "I was approached several months ago and haven't heard from them since," O'Brien said. "The fact is they come around, shake things up and then go away."

He doesn't want to sell or move the business he's worked at building for four years.

The auto shop has been there 30 years. He leased it for three and bought it a year ago.

"I know I can't get in the way of big business," said O'Brien. "It was a fair price they offered, but I didn't sign."
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Postby Better Life dude on Mon Jan 22, 2007 9:05 am

It's my feeling that George Davis from Grounds for Celebration is simply afraid of the big chain coffee shops setting up near his Grounds for Celebration coffee shop.

I'm sick of these people getting all the press lately for being obstuctionist when the majority of neighborhood residents would welcome more/ better shopping nearby. Yes, everyone wants quality development. Nobody is suggesting Dollar General move into the neighborhood. But to be obstructionist hurts everyone. :x
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Postby Young DSM Social Club on Mon Jan 22, 2007 9:23 am

I agree with everything you said ... seems like a lot of "self interest" to me.

I'm tired of the whining as well. My neighborhood has NO parks!
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Postby speeder on Mon Jan 22, 2007 9:56 am

The more businesses owners and I hear whining about how they, the less tendency I will have to visit them. All that stuff about commuter businesses and neighborhood businesses is a bunch of crap, especially coming from a business owner. Like the Davis' are going to complain and turn me away if I tell them I drive out of my way in the morning to go to their coffee shop. I'm not sure if all those "Save the Green" granola eaters figured this out but, Beaver is a considerable North/South Route in Des Moines. I bet there are a number of people from Urbandale, Grimes, Johnston, and Saylorville area that take Beaver Ave. all the way through to Forest Ave on their way downtown. And, Urbandale Ave and Beaver Ave. used to be a major trolley stop on the Inter-Urban line... many of those buildings wouldn't even exist if it were not for transient customers. And if that area is a service area for the surrounding neighborhood why is there a specialty Outdoor Outfitters Store, or UPS store, Or Michaels, or Christophers, or a Catholic Elementary School, or Ace Hardware, The Back Room, or a number of other businesses and resturants that we well know serve a population and area larger than Beaverdale. These people of full of it.

Furthermore, According to the Recreation, Park, and Open Space Standards and Guidelines a "Neighborhood Park" should be at least 5 acres in order to effectively accommodate the desired function of a neighborhood park; 5-10 acres is optimal. Whats this site at, just over 4 acres? It doesn't even meet the standard for a neighborhood park that is up to snuff.
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Postby Ingersoll1978 on Mon Jan 22, 2007 12:36 pm

"Beaverdale has a village feel and the idea of making Beaver a business corridor is frightening to me," said George Davis, who with his wife, Jan, owns Grounds for Celebration coffee shop. Davis said he is not against growth, but would prefer to see local merchants move into existing spaces.


How he doesn't think Beaver is a business corridor is beyond me. I think this whole debate is getting ridiculous. It also makes the neighborhood appear "anti" development. Remember a year or two ago, they were crapping their pants about the Walgreens vacancy. I definately agree that they are being motivated by their own self-interests (which is understandable).
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Postby speeder on Mon Jan 22, 2007 3:06 pm

Very Interesting....

Chapter 3 of Beaverdale Neighborhood Revitalization Strategy (Comprehensive Plan) adopted in 2004, shows there was overwhelming support for mixed-use, corridor oriented development on the Rice School site. Using this approved community plan as a guide, the Save the Green people are too little, too late. and....the plan was prepared with the Beaverdale Neighborhood Association and get this, the Beaverdale Business Coalition.

http://www.beaverdale.org/uploads/pdf/rice_school.pdf
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Postby DMRyan on Mon Feb 12, 2007 8:42 pm

The ho-down begins at the Plan and Zoning Commission this Thursday at 6 pm. If the P & Z recommends approval of the rezoning, the public will still be offered up to three more chances of providing input on the project before the rezoning would take effect, which pretty much means go time for this project.
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Postby Better Life dude on Thu Feb 15, 2007 9:19 pm

I'm currently watching on live cable TV the P&Z hearing on the Rice site. There's been a long parade of people imploring a "no" decision on doing the mixed use developmnet.

While you have to commend people's passion - the guy talking now is using words like hope & redemption, cronies, the "suits" who control things, insider trading - you can tell the board's getting impatient with these concerned citizens. It's seems the most vocal people are those whose homes are abutting the project or those nearby who have a difficult time turning onto Beaver Ave due to lots of car traffice. Both of those are legitimate concerns. I'd be pissed off too.

But what can you do? The vote hasn't happened yet and it's almost 9:30pm.
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Postby dsmLA on Thu Feb 15, 2007 10:13 pm

Having fun still Ryan???
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Postby DMRyan on Thu Feb 15, 2007 11:19 pm

Wow, a five plus hour P & Z meeting that really only discussed this one item. The consensus of the P & Z from the best I could tell was that no decision would be made on this project by this group, and it will be referred to council on March 12th. A pretty rare action for the P & Z. The rezoning of this property will take a 6/7th's vote to approve it at council.

My speculation is that some development will occur on this property, but it will be an uphill battle and will likely not resemble the development in current presented form.
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Postby Better Life dude on Sat Mar 24, 2007 8:17 am

Well, high noon approaches at the Des Moines city council chambers Monday evening:
Beaverdale plan approaches 'live or die' time
The City Council will vote Monday on the project at the old Rice School site.

By FRANK VINLUAN
REGISTER STAFF WRITER

March 24, 2007
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The protracted controversy over an $11.6 million plan for townhouses and stores on an open field in Beaverdale could be decided Monday.

The Des Moines City Council is set to vote on the future of the former Rice Elementary School property. The school was torn down in 2000 and neighbors used the four acres primarily as a soccer field and park until the school board began to entertain ideas from developers. But city planners last month rejected the plan by Rice Development Partners. That threw the dispute into the council's collective lap. So far, no consensus has emerged.

"I'm going to keep an open mind," said Councilman Tom Vlassis, who represents the area. "I've never told anybody how I'm going to vote, because half the time I don't know."

The city's zoning commissioners support development at the site but prefer a compromise with opponents. More than 90 percent of surrounding property owners are against the project. The commission's chairman, Dann Flaherty, said the council should send back the plan, but developer Ed Boesen said that won't happen.

"This thing is going to live or die on Monday night," he said.

The school board chose Rice Partners last fall despite a petition with more than 700 signatures and a stream of vocal opposition at board meetings. A group called Save the Green mounted an 11th-hour attempt to buy the property, but the board voted in January to sell it to Boesen's group.

Boesen ran into similar resistance in 2005 on a project in Wauwatosa, Wis., north of Milwaukee. Boesen, who along with brothers Tom and Frank own Boesen the Florist, wanted a distribution center in Wauwatosa, but city leaders sided with the neighbors, and Boesen later proposed a three-story condominium and retail project. The $3.7 million development is scheduled to open June 1.

Beaverdale residents who once opposed development on the Rice site now say they would support limited development. Single family homes rather than row houses would be appropriate, said Richard Jewett, a member of Neighbors for Responsible Development.

Zoning commissioners frequently encounter neighborhood opposition when development is proposed for neighborhoods, Flaherty said. In 2005, a Tai Dam immigrant group said it wanted to sell 30 acres on the northern edge of Des Moines and use the money to build an immigrant cultural center on an adjacent 100 acres. Neighbors were opposed, largely over concern about flooding. Flaherty said talks among the council, the developer and neighbors addressed the concerns and won over many who had been against the project.

Boesen said changes in the Rice plans would affect the financial prospects of the project. His plan will require approval from six of the seven council members. A "supermajority" is required to amend a document that guides neighborhood growth, or when more than 20 percent of surrounding property owners oppose rezoning.

Mayor Frank Cownie said he favors development on the site, as long as it meets environmental specifications. Councilman Chris Coleman, who lives in Beaverdale, also supports the project. He acknowledged a friendship with the Boesens but said it won't influence his vote.

"A small minority has been opposed from the very beginning," Coleman said. "Overall, the support in the neighborhood has been very strong."

Councilman Michael Kiernan said this week he wants to review all the plans.

"Right now, I'm not leaning one way or another on the project," he said.

Reporter Frank Vinluan can be reached at (515) 284-8211 or fvinluan@dmreg.com

Staff writer Jason Clayworth contributed to this article.

http://desmoinesregister.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20070324/NEWS/703240347/1001
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Postby dogbo on Sat Mar 24, 2007 10:29 am

Here's the a link to the city site that provides an email address for all city council members & mayor if you'd like to send them a note.

http://www.ci.des-moines.ia.us/mayor_co ... /index.htm
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Postby DMRyan on Sun Mar 25, 2007 9:02 am

The developer is saying that this is the drawing line for the project. Either it's supported in its current form or its dead. Not exactly the best approach for a developer to take, especially when it's a local neighborhood guy doing the developing. Sometimes a little compromise on both sides of the fence makes a project better.

I wonder if things get any easier for Boesen if he proposes his next urban mixed use project up the street? The residents will not be able to fight off more development like this, especially with a very development-friendly city council voting on rezonings needed to make these projects happen.

I do expect things to get bloody if the rumored Hy-Vee store were ever a serious proposal though.
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Postby dmluvr on Sun Mar 25, 2007 8:59 pm

I do expect things to get bloody if the rumored Hy-Vee store were ever a serious proposal though.


and rightfully soo----that's just horrible--espiecally with dahls not far down the street.


still---the way this project is proposed--is not bad at all and quite honestly--the way the beaverdale residents have acted about this has really changed my mind about the area. sorry--but this is just non-sense. if the city poo poos this---i'll make sure to think twice before I go shopping in beaverdale.



if these people could just spend a 1/4 of the energy spent on drying to crash everything and actually do something positive--thngs would be so much better. A natural cliche? probably.

nevertheless---this is a nice project and only helps add to the urban vibrancy of beaverdale....to which frankly--beaverdale could use---Seriously--reading this just seems like a bad podunkville situation.

oh! and one more thing!! As anyone seen that lot? OMG_-it's just a big sqaure piece of grass---it's small to begin--yeah---oye!!
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Postby speeder on Mon Mar 26, 2007 8:46 am

and rightfully soo----that's just horrible--espiecally with dahls not far down the street.


Come on, whats wrong with a little competition and consumer choice in the neighborhood? I would welcome a Hy-Vee with open arms or a Fareway even, Dahl's shouldn't be the only choice for groceries IMO... plus, the City of Des Moines might enjoy the sales tax revenue that I'm currently spending in Windsor Heights and Urbandale because that Dahl's on Beaver is a ripoff.
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Postby DMRyan on Mon Mar 26, 2007 8:26 pm

The rezoning passed with a long list of conditions.

The development moves on to the next stage.
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Postby speeder on Tue Mar 27, 2007 7:32 am

Rice site development approved
D.M. City Council says neighbors must be told of changes to plans

By FRANK VINLUAN
REGISTER STAFF WRITER

March 27, 2007
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An $11 million development in the heart of Beaverdale is moving forward following the Des Moines City Council's unanimous vote Monday night to approve plans for residential, office and retail space on the site of the former Rice Elementary School.

But the city's approval of the development comes with conditions that will keep residents involved in the process. Among them: The developers, Rice Development Partners, must meet with the neighbors at least twice more so the neighborhood is aware of changes as the concept plan moves to a final version.

Also, the final plan must come before the council for approval. Typically, final approval would be done internally by city staff.

Ed Boesen, a member of the Boesen family that has long-term ties to Beaverdale and is leading Rice Partners, said he is comfortable with the changes. Now that the Rice Partners plan has city approval, Boesen said he wants to talk to neighbors about the quality of those plans.

"Tomorrow, the real conversation and the healing with the neighbors begin," he said. "This is where the rubber meets the road and we get the chance to create the absolute best project Beaverdale deserves."

Sharon Hummel, the Beaverdale resident whose petition drive in September started the neighborhood group Save the Green, expressed disappointment after the vote.

"Not one kid had a say in this," said Hummel, whose group initially advocated saving the soccer field and park that now sit where the school once was. "The children's voices have not been heard."

The council's vote followed more than two hours of public comment from neighbors and residents who spoke passionately about the neighborhood where they live. Opponents ranged from those who wanted to preserve the field for children to those who support development, but on a smaller scale.

Many supporters of the plan wore stickers handed out before the meeting by Boesen that said "I support development of Rice Elementary." Supporters generally said town homes and row houses are the kinds of residences that would revitalize Beaverdale by attracting young professionals and empty nesters.

Councilman Michael Kiernan suggested the amendment requiring additional meetings as a gesture of cooperation.

"It's like a family divided over this," he said.

Many opponents based their argument on the city's 2020 Community Character Plan, a guideline for future development.

Councilman Tom Vlassis pointed out that the plan includes a map showing the densities of various parts of the city. Where Rice sits is described as low to medium density, the same density as the Rice Partners plan.

"Don't take a section of the book without looking at the whole thing," Vlassis said.

Mayor Frank Cownie said he was not supportive of the plan as it was proposed. But he said he could support it with the recommendations that give neighbors and the council further input.

Reporter Frank Vinluan can be reached at (515) 284-8211 or fvinluan@dmreg.com


"Not one kid had a say in this," said Hummel, whose group initially advocated saving the soccer field and park that now sit where the school once was. "The children's voices have not been heard."


OMG... Last time I checked children don't pay property taxes or get to make adult decisions like this. What a simp. Regardless, I'm glad this passed, even if the Council wussied out and required that the developer meet with the neighbors... who, now bitter and thinking for eight year olds, will make the process as hard as possible.
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Postby Lost Planet on Tue Mar 27, 2007 9:45 am

How many freaking parks does Beaverdale need, anyway? Beaverdale Park & Ashby Park are mere blocks away from the Rice site. There's also Witmer Park, Tower Park, and several schools with green space. The Rice site is a featureless field that hardly gets any use by kids unless they're on a soccer team. I guess NIMBYs are unavoidable in nearly any development.
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Postby dmluvr on Tue Mar 27, 2007 4:47 pm

Come on, whats wrong with a little competition and consumer choice in the neighborhood? I would welcome a Hy-Vee with open arms or a Fareway even, Dahl's shouldn't be the only choice for groceries IMO... plus, the City of Des Moines might enjoy the sales tax revenue that I'm currently spending in Windsor Heights and Urbandale because that Dahl's on Beaver is a ripoff.


nothing is wrong with competition. but you that area sure is hell can't support a hy-vee and a dahl's right in that area. perahaps it could--but a hyvee at that location would not be good---besides
1. That lot is to small for a hy-vee(remember hy-vee only builds big box style now)
2. it's a mute point--a grocery store isn't going to happen.

I am glad to see this pass. The whole kids didn't have a say thing was an obvious desperate attempt.

time to build a bridge and watch beaverdale grow with respect and a good quality image.
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Postby Cyclonefan on Tue Mar 27, 2007 5:45 pm

Lost Planet wrote:How many freaking parks does Beaverdale need, anyway? Beaverdale Park & Ashby Park are mere blocks away from the Rice site. There's also Witmer Park, Tower Park, and several schools with green space. The Rice site is a featureless field that hardly gets any use by kids unless they're on a soccer team. I guess NIMBYs are unavoidable in nearly any development.


I agree that I dont see many people using that park. Are there any other soccer fields in the area?
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Postby DMRyan on Tue Mar 27, 2007 9:29 pm

I'm sure the lawsuits will be flying before this is settled, and that could affect the start date of the project.

Some of the conditions of rezoning approval were to dictate the type of businesses in the development, the amount and type of signage, a study on traffic calming in the area, building materials that are predominantly masonry, and additional screening of parking lots, among others.

I'm waiting for some more detailed renderings to be shown, other than the commonly seen Google Sketch-Up models that have been used so far.

Image
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Postby Hyzer on Sat Mar 31, 2007 3:12 pm

Cyclonefan wrote:
Lost Planet wrote:...Are there any other soccer fields in the area?


There are soccer fields at the Tower Park on Hickman & 50th, the Des Moines Parks website doesn't list it under the amenities though. I've seen several flagfootball and soccer games/practices, more so than at Rice.
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Postby speeder on Sun Apr 01, 2007 11:51 am

I live about a block from Tower Park and there are several playing fields here, one of which is a soccer field that get regular use. There is room for more, especially for impromptu games, if rice school teams are looking for another open practice area. Additionally, there is tons of parking if the park lot gets full, in the church lot just to the south of the park.
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Postby philroeder on Thu Apr 12, 2007 7:40 am

Also, the School District, the City and the County all pitched in to develop new recreation facilities at Hoover High School, including a new soccer field that will be used by the youth soccer club that was playing on the Rice Field.
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Postby speeder on Fri Apr 27, 2007 12:46 pm

Group Takes Rice Land Sale To Court
Group Alleges School Board Violated Law

KCCI.com 4/27/2007

DES MOINES, Iowa -- Debate over the development of the former Rice Elementary School in Des Moines moved into a courtroom Friday morning.

The Des Moines School Board in January voted in favor of an $11 million plan to build homes and commercial space on the Beaverdale site.

A group called Save the Green is taking the school board to court. The group alleges the board violated Iowa law because the board made its decision to sell the site before hearing public input.

Polk County judge Robert Hanson will issue a written judgment.


The public input was heard through 'The Beaverdale Plan' process. Shut up already. I don't ever once want to hear one of those ****ing Save the Green people complain about the school district not having enough money, part of the reason is because of stupid lawsuits like this. If I was the judge I would throw out the case and tell them to go the hell home and mow the green space on their front lawns , they at least own that.
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Postby Better Life dude on Tue May 29, 2007 1:11 pm

From the Register's web site:
Developer revises plans for Beaverdale project
By FRANK VINLUAN
REGISTER STAFF WRITER

May 29, 2007

Revised development plans for the former Rice Elementary School property show efforts to reduce the visual scale of the residential and commercial project by swapping townhouses for row houses and preserving at least two mature trees on the site.

The plans will be unveiled at a community meeting Wednesday evening in the Armory Building.

“The process has given us the opportunity to sit down with the community and come up with a better development plan,” said Rich Clark, one of the partners in Rice Development Partners, the group planning to build on the Rice property.

The Wednesday meeting is the second of two required by the Des Moines City Council as a condition for its approval of the conceptual plans and rezoning of the roughly 4 acres at the corner of Beaver and Adams avenues.

Clark said of the major concerns that came out of the first meeting were tree preservation, open space and storm water management.

The trees that would be saved include a pin oak at the corner of Beaver and Adams and a black cherry tree on Adams. Rice Partners will try to preserve a cluster of three trees at the northeast corner of the site. But sewer improvements will have to go through that area and the developer may not be able to save those trees.

The revised plans will have more green space. The water detention area will be a large green space in the middle of the development. Storm water on the site will drain into the grassy area where it will be held as it is released into sewer lines need to be built.

The meeting is at 6 p.m. in the St. Etienne Conference Room of the Armory Building, 602 Robert D. Ray Drive.

Here's the link:
http://www.desmoinesregister.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20070529/NEWS/70529011/1001
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Postby DMRyan on Tue May 29, 2007 9:05 pm

The project is getting a little less dense if they're "swapping townhouses for rowhouses" now. That was one of the coolest things on the orginal rendition of the project, IMO.
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Postby Better Life dude on Thu May 31, 2007 8:35 am

The Save the Green people are never going to be happy with anything about this project. Seems like the developers are listening to them though and are willing to meet them half way on a couple points. I like the quote by the guy who still wants a volley ball court and playground to be kept -along with all the trees.

Is the lawsuit still on for this project? If so, that would give the Save the Green people a bit of continuing leverage on the developer to keep asking for what they want.


Rice plan draws criticism, requests
Neighbors of the project express concerns at a meeting with developers, who pledge to consider changes.

By FRANK VINLUAN
REGISTER STAFF WRITER
May 31, 2007
2 Comments

A wide-ranging discussion Wednesday night on the revised development plans for Rice Field drew some compliments, some criticism and a pledge from the developers to consider further adjustments to the buildings proposed for the site.

But the density - which has been a top complaint of residents - of the $11 million residential and commercial construction project on the site of the former Rice Elementary School won't change. Des Moines Community Development Director Larry Hulse said the zoning and density were set in March when the City Council approved the conceptual development plans from Rice Development Partners.

"The zoning may be done, but I don't think you're done with your alterations," resident Joann Thorup said. "I think you have more leeway."

The meeting in the Armory Building was the second of two with neighbors required by the council as a condition for the project's approval.

Also, the final plan must return to the council. Typically, final approval would be made internally by city staff.

The plans show buildings that would be predominantly brick, with designs intended to break up the scale of the project as seen from the neighborhood - changes welcomed by most Beaverdale residents.

But neighbors of the site still say they want the developers to lessen the presence of buildings, particularly those in view of neighboring homes. Several residents asked that the commercial building proposed for Adams Avenue be set back farther from the street.

Resident Karl Dow also said neighbors don't want the three-unit townhome building on the northeast corner of the site. He said they would prefer to keep the existing playground and volleyball court and as many trees as possible. Dow said the developers have not made any substantial adjustments that respect the neighbors' views.

Rich Clark of Rice Partners said moving the commercial building could pose problems because of the drop in grade on the property, but he said developers would look into that as well as into making changes to the buildings on the northeast corner.

"If we think it's something that provides value to this plan, it's something we'll take to the city," Clark said.

The revised plan does save more trees.

Two trees at Beaver and Adams avenues would be saved, including a memorial tree for former Rice Principal Ferne Thorne. Also, a black cherry tree on Adams Avenue would be spared.

Even with the installation of a new sewer line from the detention pond through the northeast corner of the property, Clark said engineers have determined that two trees, and possibly a third, in that area can be saved.

Reporter Frank Vinluan can be reached at (515) 284-8211 or fvinluan@dmreg.com
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