NEW: Watertown Planning Commission approves controversial residential development plan (Audio)

March 10, 2023
Mike Tanner

WATERTOWN, S.D.–A game-changing move by the Watertown Planning Commission Thursday.

On a 5-to-2 vote, they approved a request for a controversial Planned Unit Development (PUD) in what’s known as the Eastwoods neighborhood, just north of Cherry Drive in northeast Watertown.

What makes this a game-changer is that the city has taken the bold and unprecedented step of including nearly two acres of its own land,  that is currently zoned A-1 Agricultural (gray shaded area), to be part of the PUD, so the developer, Archer Land Development LLC of Lake Norden, can proceed.

A PUD in Watertown requires a minimum five acres of land, and in this case, Archer had only 3.13 acres of private land to build on, so that’s when the city stepped in to become a partner and reach the five acre threshold.

The Planned Unit Development would include six high-density dwellings, including three 12-plex apartment buildings, three four-plexes and a 65-space parking lot that neighbors have voiced strong opposition to.

Right now, the land in question is zoned R-2, which would allow for only single family homes, twin homes or duplexes. It has been zoned R-2 since it was annexed into the city in 2015.

The Planning Commission had earlier rejected Archer’s request to re-zone the land as R-3, a move that was also turned back by the City Council. Following that rejection, Archer pivoted to the PUD plan and began talking with city officials about becoming a partner in the development.

During Thursday’s hearing, Watertown City Attorney Lisa Carrico informed commissioners that if they had any concerns about the PUD, or were interested in making any changes to it, now was the time to voice their opinions. Aside from a brief remark about safety concerns with the large parking lot that were raised by Commissioner Rhonda Dargatz-Johnson, there was silence from the remaining commissioners. No changes were made.

Dargatz-Johnson was the only commissioner to openly object to city land being thrust into this development request….

Planning Commissioner members voting for the PUD were Bonnie Oletzke, Jeff Brink, Liam Culhane, Todd Kays and Blake Dahle. Commissioners Dargatz-Johnson and Jason Hanson voted no.

The PUD now goes to the city council for a first reading on March 20th, with a second reading and council action on April 3rd.