WALA permit approved by City CouncilWORTHINGTON — The Worthington City Council, concurring with a recommendation made last week by its Planning Commission, gave unanimous approval Monday night, to a special use permit that will enable Worthington Area Language Academy (WALA) to move to the MC Fitness facility.
By: Ryan McGaughey, Worthington Daily Globe
WORTHINGTON — The Worthington City Council, concurring with a recommendation made last week by its Planning Commission, gave unanimous approval Monday night, to a special use permit that will enable Worthington Area Language Academy (WALA) to move to the MC Fitness facility.
WALA, which will be in its new home in time for the start of the 2009-2010 school year, will utilize the front portion of the facility for educational purposes. The sports complex portion would be shared with MC Fitness during non-school hours.
The council’s action came after a 50-minute discussion, and with the addition of amendments to what the Planning Commission had approved during its meeting last Tuesday. Prior to the vote, Alderman Ron Wood made note of what he saw as an important opportunity for his fellow councilmen.
“This is more than WALA and more than MC Fitness,” Wood said. “This is a statement by the city council that we believe in cultural diversity.”
WALA is currently located in the former Faith Christian School building in Bigelow. As discussion on issuing the permit began, Wood indicated that the proposed school facility inside MC Fitness met the standards of the Minnesota Department of Education.
“I toured the facility and I looked at the plans,” Wood said. “One of my biggest concerns was with the Department of Education … and they’ve approved the move to this location.”
Alderman Mike Kuhle, the council’s representative on the Planning Commission — and the lone “no” vote when that entity recommended approval of the WALA move — expressed concerns about safety. He said he worried about students potentially exiting the building and entering Rowe Avenue unsupervised.
“You’re going to have trucks going up and down that road, semis,” said Kuhle, listing the businesses in the heavily industrial area.
Responding to those concerns, WALA Director Tonja Cantú noted that school policy requires parents picking up their children to enter the building and sign them out, as well as students to be walked together as a group by a staff member to buses.
Council ultimately adopted a condition to the special use permit that would necessitate the creation of loading/unloading zone for buses.
One of the other primary concerns was parking, and a condition approved by the Planning Commission that would require a “good neighbor policy” with the Eagles Club. Alderman Mike Woll asked for clarification of the policy, leading Manager of Planning and Economic Development Brad Chapulis to suggest a new amendment that the parties heed a 1972 agreement between the Eagles Club and the previous owner of the MC Fitness property.
Mark Ossenfort, who owns MC Fitness, said he will make necessary improvements in parking to meet city requirements. There will be parking on Eagles property for WALA, but Ossenfort will make needed upgrades as part of the permit conditions.
Alderman Lyle Ten Haken recommended an additional condition — ultimately passed by council — that requires a signed agreement between Ossenfort and an Eagles Club representative. It’s also likely that parking restrictions will be placed along Rowe Avenue, though no action was taken in making that another condition for granting of the permit.
Glenn Thuringer, manager of Worthington Regional Economic Development Corp., encouraged the council to approve the relocation.
“We need to bring this together,” said Thuringer, who praised the compatibility of the building — and its availability for soccer — for WALA. “The parental involvement in education is given an opportunity by moving forward with this.”
In other business Monday, the council:
- Approved the first reading of a proposed ordinance that would rezone property located at the southeast corner of the intersection of Nobles County 5 and 35 from Transitional Zone to R-4-Medium Density Residential.
Reynolds Construction Management, Sioux Falls, S.D., has submitted an application for 5.9 acres of land it is purchasing at the site, and plans to develop the property into a multi-building apartment complex consisting of 72 units.
- Concurred with a Planning Commission decision to deny a change of zone application for properties located at 1326 Second Ave., 101 14th St., and 102 14th St. They are currently zoned R-4; applicants desired B-2-Central Business District.