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Zoning plan draws debate

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WORTHINGTON -- Nearly 75 people packed into the Farmer's Room of the Nobles County Government Center Wednesday night to discuss proposed zoning changes in the one-half mile perimeter of the City of Worthington.

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The meeting provided county staff and planning and zoning commission members an opportunity to present information and collect public comment on the proposal. Approximately 50 parcels in the one-half mile zone would be impacted by the proposed changes.

Nobles County Environmental Works Director Wayne Smith said the county has not improved its zoning map since 1965. That means the seven parcels identified in 2003 for use as Job Opportunity Building Zones (JOBZ) are still zoned agricultural.

With both the county and the city updating their comprehensive plans in recent years, the goal in making zoning changes is to better plan for future growth and development.

A repeated concern among those in attendance Wednesday night was the impact the zoning changes would have on their ability to make changes on their property.

Dan Bogie, who resides on 244th Street directly north of Interstate 90, will see his property changed from agriculture zone to highway business zone.

"As a resident, I can't restrict you from putting me into a business or industry zone," Bogie said. "(The changes) are accepted -- as long as it's not your casualty."

Bogie suggested the county make changes in zoning as needed, rather than address the entire perimeter at once.

"Why can't you, as industry demands it, make your transitions?" Bogie asked. "Wait until industry comes in, and then (address it)."

Ron Wood, the city representative on the Joint Jurisdictional Task Force, said waiting is not the answer.

"If you don't do it in an orderly fashion, and you get a business that wants to come in ... it would be much more difficult to bring that business in," Wood said. He described a town he once visited where residential housing, business and industry were co-mingled and made for an unappealing community.

"If you don't have some planning, property values are affected in the whole town," he added.

Several property owners living along Nobles County 35 east of Worthington questioned the proposed change in their zone from agricultural to industrial.

"Why are you taking our homes and trying to put them in industrial (zone)?" asked Clifford Shreiner, who resides on Nobles County 35 east of Worthington. "If you want it industrial, go buy our land, and then you can make it industrial."

Worthington Mayor Alan Oberloh said the city will not take away a resident's home for economic development purposes.

"We don't want to go out and take land. We want willing sellers," Smith added.

Greg Baustian asked if he could put an addition on his house if the proposed industrial zone was adopted.

"(The change) allows you to remodel, but you can't change the footprint," Smith responded. In other words, an addition onto the home would not be permitted.

Steve Jeppesen said he receives a phone call about every six months asking if he has property in the proposed industrial zone for sale. He had concerns regarding the proposed R-3 (medium density housing) zone directly to the south of the proposed industrial zone.

"Making land R-3, to me, doesn't make any sense out there," he added.

Other comments were presented on zoning changes proposed north and east of Worthington.

Dale Molitor, who operates Sorensen Sprayers Inc., on Airport Road, said he preferred his property remained in a highway business zone rather than be changed to an agricultural zone.

"The ag preservation district doesn't fit what we do there," Molitor said. Citing increased business growth in the last 18 months, he fears that if he would want to sell the business, the ag zoning designation could impact the sale.

"I think it would be detrimental if it was rezoned," he added.

Bennie Gerdes, who resides on West Oxford Street, cited annexation concerns with the proposed zoning changes. He said he attended meetings back in the early 1960s to discuss zoning changes, and in 1965, the city annexed 40 of his acres into the city limits.

"Nothing's ever been developed there," Gerdes said. "Why would you need another 80 acres to develop to the west?"

The property Gerdes referred to is proposed to be zoned rural residential, stretching a half-mile wide from I-90 south toward U.S. 59/Minnesota 60.

Regarding any property tax impact that could occur with the proposed zoning changes, Smith read a written statement from Nobles County Assessor Byron Swart saying that property tax formulas would not change on the affected parcels in either 2008 or 2009. Because of continuing changes in tax law, it is unknown what changes could take place after 2009, Smith said.

Shreiner said after talking further with Swart, his taxes would change if and when industrial development took place within the zoned area.

Comments collected during Wednesday night's meeting will be discussed by members of the Joint Jurisdictional Task Force and will be brought back for a second public meeting slated for 7 p.m. March 26 in the Farmer's Room.

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Julie Buntjer
Julie Buntjer joined the Daily Globe newsroom in December 2003, after working more than nine years for weekly newspapers. A native of Worthington and graduate of Worthington High School, then-Worthington Community College and South Dakota State University, she has a bachelor's degree in agriculture journalism. At the Daily Globe, Julie covers the agricultural beat, as well as Nobles County government, watersheds, community news and feature stories. In her spare time, she enjoys needlework (cross-stitch and hardanger embroidery), reading, travel, fishing and spending time with family. Find more of her stories of farm life, family and various other tidbits at www.farmbleat.areavoices.com.
(507) 376-7330
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