Committee hears request for mini-storage facility
WORTHINGTON — After taking nearly an hour of public testimony, a joint jurisdictional committee made up of city, county and township officials agreed to disagree on county staff's interpretation of local zoning laws that address operation of a home-based business in a residential neighborhood.
Before the committee Tuesday evening was a request from Allen Drost, Worthington, to construct a 10,000-square-foot mini-storage facility on his property along First Avenue Southwest, south of Prairie Elementary. The land is located outside city limits but within a half-mile of the city; requests for altered property uses therefore go before the joint jurisdictional committee.
Drost purchased the 7.46-acre parcel last fall with plans to build a new family home and mini-storage units. Just weeks before Drost closed on the property, he was notified that city staff would object to his plans for the development of mini-storage units on the property.
Brad Chapulis, Worthington's director of community development, was at Tuesday's meeting and also submitted a letter on behalf of the city stating that Drost's newly acquired property is within an area of the city sited for future residential development. The designation has been in the city's comprehensive plans for years, Chapulis said.
"The property going all the way over to Crailsheim Drive has been identified as future residential," he explained during the meeting. "The city has invested millions of dollars in infrastructure to ensure this be developed for residential."
Chapulis said water lines are already in place and sanitary sewer is accessible to "provide urban services" for future development. He contended that a mini-storage unit did not fit the long-term interest of the city.
Drost, meanwhile, said the mini-storage facility would "provide a community service to residents on the southwest side of the community." He said noise would be low-impact, and he pointed out that neighbors have had home-based businesses for decades.
Drost also said other mini-storage units in Worthington are within residential neighborhoods, and added that the city's plans for residential development aren't ideal for the area.
"In my eyes, it's a poor choice in considering the close location of the railroad," Drost said.
The railroad actually became a sticking point in the meeting when it was realized the Chicago & Northwestern Railroad, as a neighboring property owner, wasn't notified of Tuesday night's meeting and therefore didn't have an opportunity to voice an opinion on Drost's request.
There was discussion regarding tabling the matter until the railroad received proper notification. In the end, the committee voted to disagree with the interpretation by staff.
The decision means Drost's request will be forwarded to the Nobles County Board of Adjustment for review. That board will likely meet in mid-February to take up the request.
"This is what the joint jurisdictional (group) is about," said committee chairman and city council member Ron Wood. "The county has different zoning requirements than the city has."
Nobles County Environmental Services Director Wayne Smith, who brought Drost's request before the joint jurisdictional committee, said if the board of adjustment agrees with his interpretation of the rules, the joint jurisdictional committee will need to cite other reasons for denying Drost a permit to construct the mini-storage units.
The city of Worthington isn't the only entity opposed to Drost's request. Letters were received from neighboring property owners Richard and Barbara Raymond, as well as Mark Boltjes.
Boltjes stated in his letter that he was concerned about increased and weekend traffic, noise, dust and security light distractions. The Raymond letter simply stated the committee should deny the request, but Smith said he talked to the couple earlier in the day Tuesday and they had concerns about increased traffic disrupting the character of the area.
Mayor Alan Oberloh, who also serves on the joint jurisdictional committee, said he was also against Drost's plan.
As the owner of 60 storage units in town, Oberloh said he knows there is a need for more of these facilities, but believes there are better locations for mini-storage than along First Avenue Southwest.
"We spent a lot of time on that comprehensive plan, developing it," Oberloh said. "Industrial was going to be east, residential (was westward) and growth north of the Interstate was business.
"Anytime a home-based business has come before planning commission, one of the biggest criteria was that it didn't adversely affect a residential neighborhood and did not produce additional traffic," he added. "For that reason, I don't think this fits in a residential development."