WORTHINGTON — The Worthington Planning Commission considered a number of variance and conditional use permit requests at its regular meeting Tuesday night.

Minnesota Energy Resources Corporation would like to build a natural gas utility station south of County State Aid Highway 5 in order to accommodate the growing natural gas needs of the Worthington community. Its current capacity is insufficient for local gas usage.

The site MERC has chosen requires a number of additional permissions.

First, the lot would need to be subdivided. According to city code, since the parcel in question is in a TZ (transitional zone) zoning district, the minimum lot area is 435,600 square feet and the minimum lot width is 200 feet. However, the area MERC desires is only 16,900 square feet and 130 feet wide. Although the TZ district requires a 35-foot setback from the road, MERC wants to occupy as little land as possible and requested a five foot setback variance.

City code also says that land cannot be subdivided unless city sewer and water are connected to the property, but a natural gas utility station does not need to have sewer and water.

MERC requested a variance from those regulations. Since the planning commission acts as the Worthington Board of Variance, variance decisions are final but can be appealed to city council. The commission found MERC's request reasonable and granted the variance.

In an action secondary to the variance approval, MERC applied for subdivision of the property. This action constitutes a recommendation from the planning commission to city council. The commission approved the recommendation. City council will hear the request at the June 8 regular city council meeting.

A third action needed was a conditional use permit to build the utility station on the property. The station will include a 600-square-foot building, an above-ground heating unit and above-ground piping.

The owner of the property to the immediate north was present at Tuesday's meeting and expressed concern about the potential for disturbance caused by noise generated from the utility station.

Commission members were also concerned about the fact that most of the land surrounding the property in question is undeveloped. They wanted to be careful not to block future housing from being built on the neighboring parcels.

Ultimately, the commission voted in favor of recommending the city council approve MERC's conditional use permit, with the conditions that the developer build screening to absorb noise and include a gravel driveway and parking spot in the site plan.

Other CUPs the planning commission recommended Tuesday:

  • Newport Labs plans to refinish its parking lot, and as part of that project, requested to add another driveway on East Avenue.
  • KC Properties, as part of its planned addition of 16 memory care units to Golden Horizons Assisted Living, requested reduction of the number of parking spaces to .5 per dwelling unit rather than 1 per unit.

All CUPs will be considered by the city council June 8.