Dock proposal draws mix of support, criticism

(Above) Jake Kopriva (fourth from right), owner of Lake Time Boat Club, discussed his proposal to place commercial boat slips at the 20th Avenue South public access to the lake with the Parks Board Wednesday.  The board voted to recommend public docks be placed at 17th and 20th Avenue South and will ask the City Council to consider a zoning change at the 20th Avenue South access to allow commercial operations at the site.  If approved, board members said they would consider commerical proposals from any interested parties.-Reporter photo by Marianne Gasaway.

Boat Club owner suggests public access dock with mix of  commercial, public boat slips

by Marianne Gasaway

The Clear Lake Parks Board will recommend docks be added at two Clear Lake public accesses, however a proposal to allow a commercial interest on one of them remains undecided.

After more than an hour of comment from approximately 50 people in attendance at the Parks Board meeting Wednesday, March 24, the board voted to proceed with recommending construction of docks at public accesses located at 17th Avenue South and 20th Avenue South.  A motion also passed to ask the City Council to consider changing the zoning at the 20th Avenue South access from residential to commercial.

A proposal made by Jake Kopriva, owner of Lake Time Boat Club, sparked the latest debate concerning the lack of boat slip availability on Clear Lake.  Kopriva, who is a member of the Parks Board, submitted a proposal to the Board that would place a 165-foot dock at the 20th Avenue South access.  Four boat slip spaces would be designated for the public, while Kopriva would use six spots for boats used by his club members.

Kopriva said he has an accepted offer to purchase the former Y-Knot building  at 2109 South Shore Drive, adjacent to the 20th Avenue South access.  His proposal noted it would provide adequate off-street parking for slip tenants.

“Obviously there’s a lot of passion in regards to the lake and its access.  I also share that same passion,” said Kopriva.   “Five years ago I started the boat club. The proposal I am presenting mutually benefits the city and the community of people wanting slip space.  It will help more people get on the lake, not take away from it.  This presents an opportunity to create boat slip availability, as well as add business to the community.  I am trying to solve a problem and fulfill a need.”

Kopriva added that his boat club currently serves 30 families that otherwise would not have access to a spot on the lake.   Currently, Kopriva rents boat slip space at The Landing, on South Shore Drive.

Property owners on each side of the access oppose Kopriva’s plan, saying the length of the dock would create safety concerns, as well as impact their property value.  The access is also well-used, they said, and a dock would limit some of that access.

“This is a request made by a private business that I don’t think is appropriate,” said Brian Drake, who owns the property on the north side of the access.  “We don’t want to see a marina in the middle of our residential area.”

Other opponents to the plan claimed there is not enough room at the site for the dock and boat slips and said damage has already occurred to neighboring docks by large vessels using the lake access.

A good number of those attending said while they did not specifically oppose Kopriva’s plan, they take issue with providing him with boat slip space before the 300-plus who have had their names on a wait list with the city.

Dale Hill said some people have been waiting 15 or 20 years on the list and chastised Kopriva for proposing the idea as a Parks Board member.  

“Have you called number five (on the list) and said, ‘hey, is it alright if I take your spot?’” Hill asked Kopriva.

Parks Director Randy Miller pointed out Kopriva, like any other person, could make a proposal to the board.  There was no conflict of interest because Kopriva recused himself from voting.  Miller added it is not uncommon for a Board member to recuse themselves due to their enterprises having business before local government.

“I applaud Jake for bringing this proposal.  It’s not about the fifth person.  It’s about the four who do get off of the list,” said Jesse Bauman, adding he was an advocate for better transparency of the boat slip wait list.  “We should focus on the opportunity for what could be done here.”

Jim Flick, owner of Movement Solutions in Clear Lake, supported Kopriva as a fellow businessman trying to meet a local need.

“I am pro business,” said Flick.  “Clear Lake has changed.  It has evolved.  We do what we can to fulfill that demand.”

Flick added that there are other options around the lake where boats can be launched, but too few public access docks and boat slips.  “Complaining about the lack of parking is like complaining about the wind blowing in Clear Lake,” he said.  “It’s a fact of life.”

  Others attending the meeting suggested the city raise the cost of placing a lift at a city dock.  

“That way you’ll find out who really wants to be on a dock,” Todd Humburg told the board.

Currently, those assigned to a public access dock pay $200 for a spot.  They are also responsible for sharing the cost of dock materials, maintenance, dock installation and removal, as well as placement of their lifts and proof of insurance.  The docks are paid for entirely by those assigned to spots, but they are open to public use.

Joe Schmitt, who owns a commercial dock at Ventura, shared that the average cost of his slips are $1,800 per season.  However, he stores and installs the lifts as well as his dock.  He currently has 20-25 on a wait list.

According to the Iowa Department of Natural Resources, there are currently seven active commercial dock permits on Clear Lake.  There are no commercial dock applications currently under review. The department is aware some may be applied for, but no new applications had been submitted as of Friday, March 26.

Following Kopriva’s presentation and comments from the public, Board member Chris Hogg shared that he thought the Board should, at a minimum, recommend docks at 17th Avenue South and 20th Avenue South which would provide space for 11 boat slips.  

The board voted unanimously to ask the City Council to consider adding commercial slips to the 20th Avenue site.  The Council’s approval is needed because spot zoning is needed to allow commercial use.  If zoning is changed to allow a commercial interest on the dock, board members said they would invite proposals from all interested commercial operators.

City Administrator Scott Flory and Council members Bennett Smith and Gary Hugi attended the Parks Board meeting.  In response to a question, Flory told the Board that if approved, a zoning change could take approximately two and one-half months to complete.

During its discussion, some board members suggested that if zoning is changed to allow additional spaces on the 20th Avenue South access dock, they would prefer that six spaces go to the public and four be assigned to the commercial vendor.


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