By The Banner staff

A relatively routine request for final plat approval of a housing development evolved into a discussion about the proposed site for Duncan’s new water tower during Tuesday night’s City Council meeting.

Although the water tower issue was not on the agenda, several residents of the Stagestand neighborhood attended the meeting and demanded to know if a vote on the plat approval was, in actuality, a secret way for the council to approve a site for the new water tower.

Sparking their suspicion was a letter from M.J. Lewis, dated Oct. 2, which was sent out to area realtors and brokers. Lewis is the developer of the 32-lot Westfield housing addition that was seeking final approval.

The letter states, “We will not be able to develop any more lots in west Duncan until a decision is made by our mayor and City Council on the construction of the water tower in the recommended location.”

Prior to the vote on the plat, Vicki Carey, a Stagestand resident, addressed the council.

“We want to know if you’re also approving the location of the water tower with this vote,” she asked.

“If you are asking if we are trying to sneak the water tower into this, the answer is ‘no,’” replied City Attorney Jim Frieda. “This vote is not contingent on the location of the water tower.”

“But that’s what the developer is saying,” countered Carey.

“What the developer chooses to do is up to the developer,” said Frieda.

“If he decides not to continue because of the placement of the water tower, that’s up to the developer,” added City Manager Clyde Shaw.

Part Four of the Westfield Addition was then approved by a unanimous vote.

In a public meeting several weeks ago, Duncan Public Works Director Scott Vaughn shared the results of a report prepared by Design Engineers Inc., that identified three possible locations for a new water tower to serve the northwest section of Duncan.

The best choice, said the engineer’s report, would be to locate the tank north of Plato Road and west of the Stagestand housing addition, a location that has drawn opposition from several residents of the area.

During the public comment portion of Tuesday night’s meeting, the issue of the location for a new water tower was raised again.

Carey read a letter prepared by Stagestand resident William Banks, who could not attend the meeting. Banks accused Vaughn of having planned and designed the location of the new water tower for the past year, with no public input. He said Stagestand residents would stand to lose 20 percent of their property values if the tower was built, and requested that the planning process start over to allow all those affected to work together to develop a new solution.

Susan Camp then presented a petition to the council, signed by herself and 54 other residents, requesting the consideration of an alternate site. “And I’m the only Stagestand resident on the petition,” she told the council.

Then Ed Carey requested the council consider an industrial or commercial site for the tower.

Mayor Gene Brown, a longtime councilman before becoming mayor, said plans for a new water tower serving the north end of town had been discussed for at least 20 years.

“We’ve always known we needed a new water system there,” he stated. “This was not Scott’s (Vaughn) plan. This recommendation came from an engineer we hired, and no decision has been made. All we have so far is an engineer’s recommendation.”

Brown and Shaw both stated that several public hearings were yet to be held before any decision would be made, and that the final decision will be made by the City Council, not the planning commission.

“We’re not even close to making a decision. We’re nowhere near that. You’re not going to wake up tomorrow and suddenly see a new tower in your neighborhood,” said Vice Mayor Michael Hale.

Frieda then took Banks’ letter to task for continuing to impugn Scott Vaughn.

“I have no dog in this fight,” said Frieda, “But Scott Vaughn works for a municipality. He didn’t make this decision. This is not his decision to make. He’s working to do what he’s asked. It’s unfair to continue to try and pinpoint one person publicly,” said Frieda.

“We’re not finding fault with Scott,” said Vicki Carey. “Everyone just got concerned about this letter. It rattled our cage.”

Brown asked for patience, and promised all the information gathered by the city will be presented in public hearings.

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