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City to store fill in flood plain; says no to granny pods

WORTHINGTON -- The Worthington Planning Commission conducted two public hearings prior to Monday night’s City Council meeting, offering recommendation to approve both a conditional use permit allowing a large stockpile of fill to be placed on Buss Field -- which is in the city’s flood plain -- and to opt out of newly passed state legislation allowing residents to establish temporary family health care dwellings.

A couple of residents appeared before the commission to ask questions about the project on Buss Field.

The city sought a conditional use permit to place 47,257 cubic yards of fill on the field, located at 857 and 911 Sherwood St., to be used during the reconstruction of two soccer fields. The material will elevate the new playing fields by 2 to 4 feet.

Anna Rasche, who was representing her daughter, who has a residence adjacent to Buss Field, inquired about the existing trees and shrubs in hopes they will remain in place as a buffer between homes and the field. Worthington Public Works Director Todd Wietzema said the trees and shrubs will remain, and that no changes are planned between the soccer fields and the residential properties.

Randy Heeringa, who along with his wife owns property on East Gateway Drive, asked the commission several questions about erosion control that will be provided.

After he was told an Environmental Impact Statement was not required for the project, Heeringa asked, “What, exactly, are you going to do to prevent that soil from running off into that ditch?”

Wietzema said the plans, developed by a professional engineer at Short Elliott Hendrickson (SEH), call for the entire area to be sodded.

“Everything we disturb or tear up will have sod on it,” Wietzema said. “There will be erosion control during the construction, when we redo the parking lot and all that. The engineer has put that into the project.”

The project will include the construction of a retention pond, allowing for sediment and nutrients to settle prior to flowing into the ditch system that connects Lake Okabena and Lake Ocheda.

“I would hate to see that ditch end up with two to four feet of additional soil moving into that ditch,” Heeringa said. “I hope you folks are very tough … to see that that doesn’t happen. Lake Ocheda is already very much a prairie-type lake with an awful lot of sediment.”

Wietzema assured Heeringa that the city doesn’t want that to happen, either.

“We, as staff, don’t want a bunch of dirt flowing into that creek,” he said, adding that the goal is to have the sod down this fall so the fields are ready to be used in the spring.

The commission approved the city’s request for the permit, with conditions including that the city continue to comply with a special use permit for the existing recreational facility, and that the city complete the improvements as outlined in SEH’s construction plans.

The second public hearing included a request from city staff to opt out of a new state law regarding temporary family health care dwellings.

Worthington Director of Community and Economic Development Brad Chapulis said the new state statute is fairly complex and requires local units of government to provide permits allowing temporary structures commonly termed granny pads. Because they are temporary -- for up to six months with an option to extend for an additional six months -- the spaces do not have water and sewer connections.

“After examining the law, it conflicts with Worthington ordinance,” Chapulis said. “We don’t think the law that’s written is going to be any better than the law we have in place.”

Cities choosing not to abide by the state law have until Sept. 1 to opt out.

Planning Commission members unanimously approved of the opt-out.

Both measures advanced to the Worthington City Council later Monday evening, where they were approved with little discussion.

Julie Buntjer

Julie Buntjer joined the Globe newsroom in December 2003, after working more than nine years for weekly newspapers. A native of Worthington, she has a bachelor's degree in agriculture journalism. Find more of her stories of farm life, family and various other tidbits at The Farm Bleat

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