Potential village annexation draws neighbors’ ire
The potential annexation of a 37-acre agricultural parcel at the corner of County Road I and 60th Street into the Village of Somerset drew so many people to the Somerset Village Board meeting on Tuesday, May 20, that it was standing room only in the Somerset Village Hall.
Matt Mithun of the Somerset Amphitheater is in the process of buying the parcel from Donald and Debra Wishard, Daniel and Kaatje Plourde, David and Melinda Marson, and Mark and Cynthia Jackson.
He would like the village to annex the parcel so it is under the same municipality jurisdiction as his Somerset Amphitheater property, making coordination easier should he choose to use the field for overflow event parking and camping, which is his intention. Mithun said it would only be used in that capacity a couple of times a year. He plans to maintain a primarily agricultural use for the property.
Tabatha Hansen, 1911 60th St., said while she is not directly adjacent to the property in question, she has several neighborhood concerns. They include: not being notified of the potential annexation; what the property will be used for; noise from campers and event-goers; decrease in property values; safety hazards, such as crossing County Road I, and trespassers; physical beauty of the area; hours of operation and quiet hours should the site be used for commercial use; and the disconnect from the intended land use.
Hansen classified the annexation as “detrimental to the small town feel of the rural area.” She said annexing the property (currently in the Town of Somerset) is not cohesive with the village’s comprehensive plan, which she said promises to keep development along the Highway 64/35 corridor, not along County Road I. She said there is already a “high saturation of campgrounds” in Somerset.
She also said she is concerned because everyone has only heard rumors for the intended use of the property. She is worried because her children ride bikes in the area, and get on the bus at the County Road I and 60th Street intersection.
“What is it? A festival? A strip club? We’ve only heard hearsay,” Hansen said.
Rita Lawson, 1917 County Road I, is worried the annexation will create a “town island” of property owned by Blythe Criswell at 1813 County Road I.
Mithun said the state Department of Administration noted the Criswell “town island” in the review of his annexation application, and that he is working with a surveyor to remedy the issue.
Village attorney Anders Helquist said a “town island,” meaning village property surrounding town property completely, is prohibited by state law.
The onslaught of neighbor opposition to the annexation continued with statements by Larry Hecht, 1915 60th St., and Connie Hecht, who owns land adjacent to the property.
“It hurts me and it hurts Jesus to see someone with a lot of money disturb this happy neighborhood,” Larry said. “We welcome business into town, we just don’t want it closer to our homes. Keep it downtown.”
Connie Hecht said she and her family have paid “top-dollar taxes” to keep their land in the family for four generations, and they don’t want to see a campground/business next door that could put a damper on their hunting, camping and fishing activities.
When Mithun told Connie that the land would only be used a few days a year, she replied “I’m a blue collar worker and that’s the days I’ll want to go outside.”
Dan Plourde, who had been sitting quietly, seemed to have enough of the discussion.
“Pick your poison,” Plourde said. “That land has been in our family for over 100 years too. But we’re not going to sit idle on it.”
He then phrased a question: Would you rather have 20 houses on it or have it used a few times a year by Matt?
Johnson addressed the crowd, saying the Village Board always tried to honor constituents’ concerns, but that most of the people present were Town of Somerset residents who have no say or control over the board’s actions.
“We want to be good neighbors,” Johnson said. “But we don’t necessarily have to appease adjacent property owners.”
A few voices in the back of the room accused the Village Board of being controlled by someone with money.
Mithun told those present that he plans to keep the parcel ag/residential with the possibility of using it for overflow parking and camping. The Somerset Amphitheater season typically runs May-September. He said he is trying to build a series of non-music, family friendly events, such as an “Iron Cowgirl” show.
“With any luck over time, we’ll develop these events,” Mithun said.
Johnson also said if the annexation is approved, the village will work with the town to figure out the maintenance responsibilities of 60th Street.
Due to a mistake with the filing of the annexation paperwork with the state, the Village Board had to table an annexation decision that night. A Planning Commission session and special board meeting that was scheduled for Thursday, May 22, was cancelled as well due to the paperwork not being back from the state.