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Planning Commission recommends further changes to central business district

Worthington's Planning Commission met Tuesday night.

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WORTHINGTON — The Worthington Planning Commission discussed a text amendment to the city’s central business district during its Tuesday night meeting.

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The proposed text amendment would require parking lots, parking terminals and cleaning-related businesses to seek a conditional use permit in order to operate downtown. This amendment comes on the heels of last month’s decision to end the city’s retail overlay district , opening up the downtown corridor to a greater variety of businesses without first acquiring a conditional use permit.

During a special meeting between the Worthington City Council and the Chamber of Commerce Retail Committee back in May , local business owners expressed concerns, particularly that the removal of the overlay district would open up the possibility of having a downtown building turned into parking space.

“This would essentially put those three or four use groups kind of back to the way they were with the retail overlay district,” explained city planner Matt Selof of the new amendment.

Terminals, including ambulance and taxi, bus, and rail services and businesses focused on cleaning with harsher/tougher chemicals will once again be required to obtain a conditional use permit, should city council approve the amendment.

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Though parking and parking lots were also included in land uses that would require a conditional use permit, planning commission member Erin Schutte-Wadzinski did express concern that the new amendment would only prevent parking where that is the primary use of the property.

“I feel like if you're going to make some changes, you want to make the changes as airtight as possible to the goal that you want to achieve,” said Schutte-Wadzinski, using the example that the commission would be unable to stop an existing business looking to expand parking space in the downtown area.

While the amendment was ultimately approved for council consideration, ways to tighten up city code regarding parking in the downtown district were discussed.

“Their main concern — and that of other business owners, too — is that they don’t want to see storefronts disappear,” said councilman Chris Kielblock, on whether the council would be amenable to further changes to city code regarding downtown. “Whatever method we can utilize to make that happen, to save those structures, I think — the council — we want to know.”

A change of zone request was also on the agenda during Tuesday's meeting, which would transfer the property located at 370 County Road 5 from its current Transition Zone designation to Medium Density Residential.

Jonathon and Keturah Scribner requested a change of zone for the property, which currently contains one house and about seven acres of farm ground, in order to pursue subdivision of the property. While nothing has formally been requested, the property owner hopes to split the ‘homestead’ portion off from the farm ground. With its current zoning designation, neither lot would meet the minimum size requirements unless rezoned.

The planning commission voted unanimously to recommend approval of the request to the city council. Final consideration will be decided at the city council's next meeting.

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Emma McNamee joined The Globe team in October 2021 as a reporter covering Crime & Courts, Politics, and the City beats. Born and raised in Duluth, Minn., McNamee left her hometown to attend school in Chicago at Columbia College. She graduated in 2021 with a degree in Multimedia Journalism, with a concentration in News & Feature Writing and a minor in Creative Writing.
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