Lake Mitchell resident says selling lake lots for development would 'make water greener' in debate with mayor

May 24—MITCHELL — Voices of opposition and support of the initiated measure that aims to allow the city to sell eight lots along Lake Mitchell debated on Tuesday and made their case ahead of the June 6 election.

The debate featured Mitchell Mayor Bob Everson, who helped bring the ballot measure forward as a mechanism to help fund a future lake dredging project, and Sherry Stilley, a Lake Mitchell resident advocating against selling the lots who said the initiated measure isn't about cleaning up the water.

Everson opened the debate by emphasizing the lots make up a miniscule portion of the city-owned land along the lake shores. Roughly 76% of the land is owned by the city, and Everson said the sale of the lots would decrease the city's land on the lake shore by 2%.

"We will still have 73% of the shoreline accessible for the public. The impact is negligible, but the money we can raise gives us the benefit of being able to get going with work in Lake Mitchell," Everson said. "These eight were chosen because they were already platted. A lot of areas along Lake Mitchell are not platted. They are simple to put into a realtor's hands and be sold."

Transforming the lots from public park land to future homes is a move that Stilley believes will have a negative impact on the environment and the water.

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Scenes from the 2023 Candidate & Issue Forum on Tuesday, May 23, at the Sherman Center in Mitchell.

Adam Thury / Mitchell Republic

The existing trees on some of the lots Stilley argued help absorb nutrients and runoff in the soil, which she fears would end up in Lake Mitchell if they are torn down for future housing developments.

"These lots full of trees currently help nature clean up the water. The roots absorb the nitrates and phosphates and fertilizers that make the algae grow in the lake. Trees provide oxygen, clean the soil, control pollution and slow stormwater runoff," Stilley said, adding the trees provide habitat for birds. "If houses were built, they would tear out the trees and fertilize the lawns that would make our lake greener again."

Stilley claimed the ballot measure isn't about helping improve the algae-laden water in the lake, rather it centers around money and future real estate development.

"It's so misleading. It's not about cleaning up the water. It's about selling all of the green spaces between lakefront homes. It's about giving up eight pieces of your public access parkland for development," she said. "I'm advocating for your parkland because it cannot speak for itself."

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Shown here is one of the lots with a public access sign on Lake Mitchell that was identified as one of the eight lots the city is seeking to sell.

Adam Thury / Mitchell Republic

Everson rejected Stilley's claim that a no vote from the council on dredging would eliminate the impact the sale of the lake lots by explaining the money generated from the sale of the lots would still be dedicated toward Lake Mitchell restoration work, regardless of whether dredging is struck down.

"If council decides not to move forward with dredging, the money would still be used to make improvements to Lake Mitchell. Whether those improvements have to do with floating wetlands that can be placed in the lake to take out nutrients or working near the Firesteel watershed," Everson said.

Everson estimates the revenue from the sale of all eight lots could amount to nearly $1 million. He said the city would look to list each for at least six figures through a realtor and an opening listing that allows any realtor to sell them.

The idea to sell city-owned lots around the lake recently emerged during a public meeting where city officials pitched potential methods of funding the proposed $25 million lake dredging project. The city council is nearing a vote on a 30-year loan application to fund a $25 million dredging project in mid-June. If voters approve the lake measure, Stilley believes it would be rendered useless if the council were to strike down going ahead with dredging.

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Petition to allow city ability to sell eight public lots along Lake Mitchell filed

Mayor Bob Everson said revenue made from the sale of the lots, if voters approve the ballot measure in June, would be used to fund future Lake Mitchell clean up efforts.

March 28, 2023 01:42 PM

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By

Sam Fosness

Four of the lots are located along the shores of the south side of the lake near North Ohlman Street, while the other four are situated on the north side of the lake by North Harmon Drive. A majority of the eight lots are about 50 feet wide with tree coverage. Most of the lots are also located in between existing homes, which Everson said rarely ever get used.

Stilley recalled voters approving to turn all city owned land along the lake into parkland in 2010 and urged a no vote to keep the same result in place.

"We voted on this in 2010 to preserve parkland forever. If these lots were sold, it would increase the lake problems, not improve them because people would be fertilizer where they are not now," Stilley said, asking voters to be visionaries for the future.

In his closing remarks, Everson reminded the audience of the severe algae woes that have hampered the lake for decades and said generating any revenue to tackle that long-standing issue would advance progress on the restoration of Lake Mitchell.

"It's old. It's seen its lifespan, and we need to do some rejuvenating to make it a good place for residents to use and generate revenue for the city. We would also ask council to capture that property tax revenue and also dedicate that to work being done in Lake Mitchell. It gives us more than just a single method to put some revenue in the coffers for improving Lake Mitchell," Everson said of the initiated measure.