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Adult day care, Palma Auto apply for special permits

WORTHINGTON -- The city's planning commission met Tuesday for two public hearings followed by a decision to recommend two special use applications to the Worthington City Council at its next regular meeting.

The "special use" process enables the city to determine if a specific land use would be compatible with surrounding land uses and if so, what, if any, conditions are necessary to assure its compatibility.

The first permit is for the operation of an adult day care facility at 500 Stower Drive, which is located in the city's light industrial zoning district -- M-1.

"(An adult day care) is on the lines of what a child day care center is," said applicant Lori Klooster. "However, the huge difference is that children go out to play the majority of the time when the weather is nice, (but) the adults are going to be in a controlled environment inside."

Klooster said the center would not be affected by emissions -- noise or dust-- from the surrounding, industrial-related businesses. Picture windows, filter systems and thicker walls were some of the features the facility would have, she said.

"It is a (much) needed entity in the community," she said. "This is where the health-care system is going for the elderly (from nursing homes)."

Representatives from nearby businesses were present to voice their opposition to the proposed location.

"We have no problems to explore every opportunity to place a business like this in Worthington," said Connie Schmidt, representing Nutripro Bio Systems. "We feel it is not the right location."

He said that while Nutripro is not in the "dust production business," dust is still an issue due to the wind, and his biggest fear was that civil matters could arise.

"All of a sudden, the individual priorities that are there will outweigh some of the commonalities that were in the zone before," he said

In addition to dust and noise, Dave Nerem, representing Concrete Materials said he could foresee a higher volume of traffic on Frederick Avenue.

"I'm not against economic development, but I don't think this location is suitable," he said.

Planning commission and city council member Mike Kuhle said it was difficult to reject the proposed location due to traffic concerns, because in 2009 a special-use permit for the now-dissolved Worthington Area Language Academy was recommended to council. The school generated more traffic, he said.

Members reached a 3-2 decision; Bruce Pass and Dana Oberloh were in opposition.

Conditions state that the facility should have:

* Double perimeter fencing, at least 8-feet high, for any outside area associated with outside activities.

* Outdoor activities facing Stower Drive.

* Landscaping placed around the east, south and west property lines to buffer the center from neighboring properties.

A second public hearing was organized to address the request of Juan and Angela Palma, owners of Palma Auto & Customs, who are planning to expand their business and were seeking a special-use permit to accommodate their business expansion at 2450 Nobles County 35.

Their immediate plan is to store towed vehicles, and a future plan, Juan said, is to perform automotive repair on-site.

Unlike the adult day care center, which would operate in an M-1 district, the Palmas' intended lot is located in a residential area -- an area not allowed for an "automotive implement."

Residents living in the vicinity of the Palmas' lot who were on hand for the hearing expressed concerns that the lot would become a "junkyard."

"I pay my property taxes with a smile, but I don't want my property to devaluate, either," one of the residents said.

The planning commission members agreed to recommend the special-use permit to city council based on the condition that the applicants have a "site obscuring fence and is limited to the existing improvements."

When the time comes for the Palmas to venture into automotive repairs, further requests would be made to the commission and city council.

Both special-use permit recommendations will be presented Monday to the city council for approval.