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Legal action threatened if zoning is changed to allow golf entertainment venue


Local developer Paul Cownie is partnering with a North Dakota group to bring Suite Shots, a golf entertainment facility, to West Des Moines. Some homeowners who live in Glen Oaks, a gated community about a quarter-mile north, are opposed to the proposed development. Below is a rendering released today of the development that includes netting that would be placed around the driving range. The rendering shows the height of the netting in comparison to other buildings proposed on the site. Architectural renderings special to the Business Record

A group of citizens is threatening legal action if the city of West Des Moines allows development to move forward with a golf entertainment facility proposed on a site west of Interstate Highway 35 along Grand Avenue.

Developer Paul Cownie is partnering with a Fargo, N.D., developer to bring Suite Shots, a three-story building with a restaurant, bar and 60 climate-controlled bays from which golfers hit balls onto a range, to the 25-acre site on the south side of Grand Avenue.

The site’s zoning must be changed before the $26 million development can move forward.

West Des Moines City Council members Renee Hardman and Doug Loots indicated at a council planning and development subcommittee meeting today that they supported designating the site as a Planned Unit Development. Adopting PUD zoning for the site would allow city officials to have more control on such things as what is built on the land, architectural and landscape designs, and traffic flow, officials said.

The project’s detractors, however, oppose the proposed PUD zoning.

“We think this is wrong,” Josh Janeczko, who lives at 1753 Glenleven Terrace, said during the meeting. “We think this is illegal. And should the council decide to use this method, we intend to litigate using all the protections provided to us by law.”

Janeczko, in a news release issued after today’s meeting, reiterated that “all legal remedies” would be pursued if the proposed project moved forward on the site.

In response to a Business Record request for reaction to the threatened legal action, a city spokesperson wrote in an email: “The city of West Des Moines regularly provides opportunities for the public to comment on rezoning issues, and we are aware that some individuals are opposed to this location for the Suite Shots development. The City Council ultimately will make a decision once they receive a recommendation from the Plan and Zoning Commission and hear additional public comment in the months ahead.”

West Des Moines has used the planned unit development method of zoning in at least 135 other developments in the city, a review of records shows.

Janeczko, who owns West Des Moines-based Innovative Injection Technologies Inc., lives in Glen Oaks, a gated community less than a quarter-mile north of the proposed development. The community sits on a hill overlooking the proposed development; 14 houses are within 670 to 2,040 feet of the site. Grand Avenue and a grove of trees separate Glen Oaks from the proposed development.

Janeczko told Hardman and Loots that the proposed development doesn’t fit with the character of the surrounding area and that changing the site’s zoning without first going through a comprehensive planning process would be a disservice to the area’s residents.

“We believe an entertainment venue with nighttime stadium lighting belongs somewhere farther separated from residential development,” Janeczko said, suggesting the development occur at Valley West Mall, a struggling retail center in West Des Moines.

Janeczko said that using a comprehensive planning process would ensure “the best interest of all zoning classifications are taken into consideration.”

West Des Moines’ comprehensive plan is a guide to what zoning could be on various land parcels throughout the city, Lynn Twedt, West Des Moines’ development services director, said. A comprehensive plan is “the first step [in determining zoning]. It lays out ‘what do we, at that time, think the right uses are for this area.’”

Deciding the zoning of a parcel is the next step, she said. It’s not uncommon for land uses proposed in a comprehensive plan to change over time. The city’s current comprehensive plan was adopted in 2010 and has been changed more than 100 times, she said.

Changes occur “in response to projects. You look at the projects and say, ‘What’s the impact of this? Can you safely change it?’” Twedt said during the meeting. “There are always people that are not happy on both sides … but to say that we should never change the comp plan is unrealistic.”

During the meeting, Cownie said that driving range lighting would be oriented to the east, away from Glen Oaks. “By design, we’re trying to be as neighbor-friendly as possible,” he said.

A lighting study showed lights from the proposed project would mostly be contained on the site. However, some driving range lighting would spill over to an area between Suite Shots and the interstate. None would reach Glen Oaks residences, the study showed.

The facility will close at 11 p.m. on weeknights and midnight on weekends, Cownie said. “Suite Shots is not a nightclub. Suite Shots is not [going to be] open until 3 a.m. Suite Shots is a family and golf entertainment, neighborhood amenity.”

Hardman and Loots said they supported discussing zoning issues related to Suite Shots with the full council.

“I don’t think we should be holding things back, week after week after week,” Hardman said. “I think the council should all weigh in on it. This is not precedent-setting. We’ve amended the comp plan over 100 times since it’s been there. A PUD is a process that allows a lot more control … and it allows for a lot more conversation in terms of what you want to restrict in the PUD.”


What else is planned on the site

During a public meeting today, developer Paul Cownie revealed other projects planned on a 25-acre site located west of Interstate Highway 35 and south of Grand Avenue in West Des Moines.

Planned on the site are a hotel, four office buildings, a stand-alone restaurant and a quick-service restaurant, Cownie said during a West Des Moines City Council planning and development subcommittee meeting. All of the proposed development would be “upscale. All high quality; all architecturally pleasing,” he said.

The proposed projects would be developed around Suite Shots, a three-story, 50,000-square-foot building that would include a restaurant, bar and 60 climate-controlled bays from which golfers hit balls onto a 250-yard range. Cownie announced the project in November.

RELATED ARTICLE: Suite Shots planned in West Des Moines south of Grand Avenue


Editor’s note: Suite Shots would be open until 11 p.m. on weekdays and midnight on weekends if the project is developed. An earlier version of the article included inaccurate closing times.   


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