STUART, IA -- The Stuart City Council has turned down a request from Bill and Marlene Wilson and All Saints Church to annex property upon which the church is proposing to build a new structure.
The property, located at the east edge of North 2nd Street and north of the vet clinic, is owned by the Wilsons.
The application for annexation states that the Wilsons had entered into an agreement to sell the property to the church, with the sale being contingent upon certain events, including the annexation of the property into the city limits of Stuart.
City Attorney Bill Bump told the council that the south 913 feet near the vet clinic is already in the city limits and that the annexation request was for the remainder of the property. Bump said the church structure itself would not be taxable but he estimated that the Wilson residence would probably increase taxes by maybe $1,000 to $1,500, although he said the assessor would have more precise figures. Bill Wilson told the council he had talked to Barry Stetzel, the Guthrie County assessor, who told him the church would carve out an “active area” which would be tax exempt and that the rest would be taxed as agriculture property, as it is now.
CHURCH WOULD PROVIDE TWO ROAD ACCESSES
Eric Tiernan, president of the All Saints Parish Council, told the council the church would extend North 2nd Street to the east and would also build a street coming off of Highway 6 leading to the church, which would provide two accesses. Tiernan said the sewer line ends north of the vet clinic, and Councilman Mick Askren said it ties into a bad sanitary sewer line which runs along Harlan Street. Other concerns about the sewer line were mentioned.
Wilson was asked why he wanted the property to be annexed, and he said it was his understanding that the diocese was requiring annexation as a pre-requisite to buying the property. Tiernan said the church wanted access to utilities, police protection and that type of thing.
Utility Superintendent Bill Gilliam explained that the Commerce Commission has established boundaries for electric service areas. The Wilson home is currently served by the Guthrie County REC. If the property were annexed, Gilliam said the utility department would have to negotiate with the REC to give up its right to a portion of the property.
Alene Pieper was the first to speak up for more than a dozen citizens who attended the Monday evening meeting, stating that the Project Restore group wanted to restore All Saints Church.
Councilman Tom Foy said he didn’t think the council should get into that debate but should look at the annexation request from the standpoint of whether or not it would be a good addition for the area and bringing in additional taxes versus the cost of providing services.
Councilman Mike Basart said he felt the city was being asked to decide whether the church should or should not be built at the proposed Wilson site. He said if the council chose to annex the property, the church could be built on the site and if the council chose to deny the request that the church could not be built there.
Mayor Dave Fry said he was concerned about what would happen to the existing church property and the former Christian Church were the parish now meets. He said those areas are already in the city limits. He pointed out that a year and a half has passed since the fire and he felt a plan for the existing property should be incorporated into any plan.
DISMANTLE PART OF EXISTING CHURCH
Tiernan said part of the existing structure would be dismantled to incorporate into the new site and that the rest of the structure would come down, probably before spring. He said the windows would be removed. Tiernan said the church plans to continue using the church school for the time being.
Tiernan also explained several other sites that were considered for a new site, including the Jack Wambold property, an area south of the care center, property south of the horse barn, property near the cemetery, McDonald’s property and an area near the sports complex. Tiernan said the existing church site was also considered, along with buying additional property to address parking concerns. He said the diocese had a “real problem” with using the old site and with the parking issue. Of all the properties that were considered, Tiernan said the Wilson property made the most sense, looking 50 years into the future. Tiernan also told the council that land in Dexter had been offered, at no cost to the church.
Basart said he did not feel annexation of the Wilson property would benefit the city very much, other than possible additional taxes and maybe future development. If the city looked at annexing the entire east side of town, it could be more beneficial, he said.
Councilman Ben Sloss said he felt the city needed a plan for streets and other services if it were to annex additional property. He also said the city deserves to know the church’s plans and time line for the existing structure.
Tiernan said it was announced several months ago that if someone wanted to buy the existing church that it was available. He said no one had come forward.
NO BETTER INVESTMENT THAN RESTORATION
Alene Pieper said she felt the existing church was “very restorable,” and Kathy Moon said there could be no better investment in the town than to restore All Saints.
Mary Claire Rohret pointed out that if the council chose to annex the property that the existing church would probably be razed. The structure, she said, draws people to town and they spend money here.
Councilman Jeff Marks said he felt the council needed to know more about the sewer and street situations, the actual tax effect on the city and what the plan is for the existing church structure.
Bill Wilson told the council the church would like to have the property deal finalized by March 1.
Councilman Askren said he did not think the city should prolong the annexation decision, and Basart withdrew a previous motion to table the annexation application. Basart than made a motion to deny the application. He pointed out that it would be a different story if the Wilson property had already been sold rather than the sale of the property being contingent upon the annexation question. The council voted 4-1 to deny the application, with Foy voting against the motion.
Askren chastised those who attended the meeting, saying that the parish has been split and that the in-fighting should come to an end.
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