WORTHINGTON - A rezoning of property across from Olson Park was approved during Monday’s Worthington City Council meeting.
The Worthington Planning Commission had voted 3-2 during its Jan. 2 meeting to recommend the rezoning of the property. Monday’s council action came on a 4-1 vote - Alan Oberloh was opposed - after hearing from the developer, a city engineer and Glenwood Heights residents.
Mike Bourquin of Brewster spoke on behalf of the developer, Midwest Sustainable Construction LLC. He displayed drawings of the proposed development that necessitates a rezone.
A daycare with a capacity of 149 kids and an assisted living center with 22 units would comprise one building and have a courtyard in the middle of the building for play and leisure, eliminating the need for fences. Two other buildings would house 27 apartment units with one or two bedrooms. The apartments are planned for market rate rent ranging from $895 to $995.
Additionally, the developer plans to build a small coffee/ice cream shop on the premises.
One major concern discussed in the planning commission meeting earlier this month was the amount of potential traffic the development might bring to the area. Commissioners agreed they’d feel more comfortable with the development if the county was to allow a driveway off of Crailsheim Road, rather than sending traffic through the neighboring residential streets.
At Monday’s meeting, city council members asked Worthington Director of Engineering Dwayne Haffield to weigh in regarding potential traffic concerns. He explained that with a through road like Crailsheim Road, it’s wise to limit the number of access points.
“Every access point creates a point of conflict,” said Haffield, describing a potential risk for crashes.
However, Haffield seemed confident that it wouldn’t take extreme road improvements to accommodate the traffic brought in by the proposed development.
Despite Haffield’s reassurance, Glenwood Heights residents Kelly Meyer and Dennis Rick remained concerned that rezoning the land for multi-family housing would bring an unsafe amount of traffic.
“There may be some things we can do different (to control traffic),” Meyer conceded, “but nobody knows what they are.”
Meyer added that he felt approval of the rezone was premature, asking that the city get permission for access off of Crailsheim Road before proceeding.
“In the meantime, we (would be) turning an investment away,” Worthington Mayor Mike Kuhle responded.
City council member Chad Cummings pointed out that Worthington needs market rate apartment buildings because as the housing options currently stand, many young professionals cannot afford to come to Worthington, making it more difficult for some of the major employers to hire.
While councilman Alan Oberloh agreed that market rate housing is ideal, he expressed concern that if the proposed project were to fall through for some reason, the land would still be zoned for multi-family housing, and another developer could build rent-controlled housing in that spot instead.
Council member Larry Janssen asked if it would be possible to only approve the rezone on the condition that the developer is awarded a grant for which it plans to apply. Director of Community/Economic Development Jason Brisson explained that a condition of the grant is that the land must already be zoned appropriately.
Council member Amy Ernst validated the traffic control concern of neighborhood residents, but reminded the council to consider the bigger picture - if rezoning the land best for Worthington in the long run. Soon after, the council voted in favor of the rezone.
In other business Monday:
- Councilman Mike Harmon was elected Mayor Pro Tem.
- Jay Vargas was appointed to fill a vacancy on the City Charter Commission.
- Council members heard a proposal to focus the proposed Beach Nook project on just the Beach Nook building for the time being, with the remainder to be developed later.