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This time, council approves permit for preschool

WORTHINGTON — The Worthington City Council put an end to a five-month saga on Monday when it approved a conditional use permit for a Southwest Minnesota Opportunity Council (SMOC) childcare facility to be located on Pleasant Avenue, just south of Pleasant Park.

Council members Chad Cummings, Alan Oberloh and Larry Janssen twice voted down SMOC’s application for a similar facility near Fareway, citing concerns with putting a school in a retail zone and significant lost property taxes. On Monday, they all voted yes for the preschool, which will hold 140 3- and 4-year-old children enrolled in the federal tuition-free child development program Head Start and 35 full-time employees.

After having its project defeated multiple times, SMOC went back to the drawing board and worked with District 518 to identify a site in a residential area — to give council what it asked for.

That doesn’t mean it was all smooth sailing from there. The project had opposition by outspoken neighborhood residents such as Terry Rotschafer, who attended every relevant meeting about the site to voice his stance that the location would create more traffic and less safety.

“You’re putting a parking lot, more cars, buses, delivery trucks in a residential area,” Rotschafer said Monday. “I think it’s unfair to put residents in that position.”

But as Mayor Mike Kuhle said, “Wherever we put this in the city, people are not going to want it.”

For more of this story, see Wednesday's print edition or