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Highland council refuses to revote on senior housing complex planned for Scheeringa Farms land

Highland council refuses to revote on senior housing complex planned for Scheeringa Farms land

Highland Town Hall

Shown is the Highland Town Hall.

HIGHLAND —The Town Council on Monday shot down a request to reconsider its Aug. 31 vote that set the stage for a senior citizen housing complex to replace part of Scheeringa Farms.

Last month's 3-2 vote, taken during a special meeting, rezoned the 19-acre site from large-lot single-family to a multi-family planned unit development.

This paves the way for Russell Construction, of Davenport, Iowa, to build the $40 million complex on 5 or 6 acres of the farmland, which sits just north of Strack & Van Til.

Scheeringa Farms has leased the land from the Griffland Group for 80 years. Russell has an option, through Dec. 31, to buy the parcel.

The Scheeringas say they now have the money to purchase the land themselves.

Russell still must appear before the Plan Commission to obtain a two-lot subdivision and also see the Redevelopment Commission for funds, agreed to by the former town council, to upgrade and rebuild Ernie Strack Drive.

The Aug. 31 vote was approved by Councilmen Mark Herak, D-2nd; vice president Bernie Zemen, D-1st; and Roger Sheeman, R-5th.

Voting Against the rezoning were Councilmen Tom Black, R-4th; and President Mark Schocke, R-3rd.

Schocke and Black are opposed to using $400,000 to $750,000 of taxpayer dollars to pay for the road.

On Monday, Black made a motion to reconsider the vote.

When there was no second offered to his motion, Schocke temporarily passed his gavel to Zemen so he could offer the second.

But Clerk-Treasurer Michael Griffin advised that any motion to reconsider a vote must be made from a member of the prevailing side.

When Zemen refused to proceed with a vote, Schocke took back the gavel and asked for the motion from Herak, Zemen or Sheeman.

All three remained silent.

"It's your chance to come back and save the day, if anybody," Schocke said to the trio. "Alrighty, well, I think the public's watching."

The meeting, which was strictly virtual, was observed by four or five dozen residents over the Zoom platform and an undetermined number over YouTube.

"I appreciate all of the people who have contacted me this week," Sheeman said, noting that not all of them were civil.

He said residents can always contact him about anything they wish.

Resident Larry Kondrat asked why the Aug. 31 vote had to happen at a special meeting when the council had up to 90 days to take action.

He also asked what the emergency was that required the special meeting.

Sheeman replied that state law requires the council to act within 14 days of receiving an official recommendation from the Plan Commission — so the special meeting was called to satisfy this law.

In clarifying the statute, Town Attorney John Reed said that, while the law did require the board to acknowledge the recommendation within 14 days, the actual vote had up to 90 days to be taken.

He added that an emergency is not required to call a special meeting.

Earlier in Monday's meeting, Schocke said that three items needed to be corrected in the minutes of the Aug. 31 meeting.

They had to do with the prevailing rezoning side interrupting Schocke's multiple amendments to the ordinance — which effectively blocked him from keeping the floor.

The council voted 3-2, in the same fashion as on Aug. 31, to reject Schocke's requests.

Family member Janille Scheeringa briefly spoke about Saturday's protest, held at the farm, which drew as many as 160 supporters.

"I would just like to thank Mr. Schocke from the bottom of all our hearts" for attending the protest.

Scheeringa also vowed to continue fighting to save the farmland.

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