Residents of 'upscale neighborhood' speak against potential apartments at Planning Commission meeting
"I think it’s an upscale neighborhood and it’s been developed that way," said Michael Hoeft, who voted to deny the change of zone request brought before the commission Tuesday night.
WORTHINGTON — The Worthington Planning Commission voted to recommend denying a change of zone request that would have allowed for the former Ridgewood facility on Knollwood Drive to be converted into apartments.
Currently zoned institutional, the city had received a request from the building owner to have the property rezoned as R-4, medium-density residential. Community Development Director Matt Selof stated that city staff had found no conflicts in terms of land use, as much of the surrounding area is a mix of R-1 and R-4 zones, and the change of zone would be in line with the goals of the city’s comprehensive plan.
“They’ve mentioned that maybe they can fit six units in the building, although they haven't gotten that far into architectural designs or anything like that,” Selof said, after recommending approval of the request. “Other than that, they’re not really proposing any major site changes at this time.”
During the public hearing, several members of the adjacent Woodland Court neighborhood spoke against the request. One neighbor, John Landgaard, passed around a paper that contained an additional eight signatures from neighbors opposing the change of zone.
“The long-term fear I have is the expansion of this property or the current, existing building,” Landgaard said. “ They can overload that property immensely as an R-4 multifamily…It makes no sense to change this to an R-4 until they have firm plans and a definition of what this property will be.”
Landgaard said that a “townhome approach” would be more in line with what is already in the Woodland Court neighborhood. This would not require a change of zone, but the building owner would have to seek a conditional use permit to pursue this course of action. Landgaard additionally voiced concerns that new apartments existing adjacent to but outside of the neighborhood’s covenants would result in a loss of control for the Woodland Court residents.
Commissioner Michael Hoeft asked if the building owner had considered a change of zone to R-1 instead and developing the property as townhomes or condos instead. Selof said that had not been indicated to him.
“To me, this is just continuing to spot zone apartments in places they don’t belong,” said Hoeft, despite the existence of another R-4 zoned apartments to the east of the former Ridgewood property, and other residential zones surrounding it. “I think it’s an upscale neighborhood and it’s been developed that way…there’s a great opportunity to make a new development continuous in the spirit of what’s already there.”
Hoeft went on to voice concerns that they could end up with a six-story apartment building. Selof noted that wasn’t something the city typically saw and that a developer would have to contend with height restrictions and parking requirements.
“I see where the city is going with this because I know the city is concerned about things like access to housing, especially apartment buildings,” said Commissioner Erin Schutte Wadzinski. On the question of if townhomes would be better suited for the property, Schutte Wadzinski wondered if that would require the owner to “dramatically change the building.”
While commissioners considered tabling the issue in order to seek more details from the property owner, it was ultimately recommended that city council deny the change of zone request. Commissioners Andy Berg, Jason Gerdes, Hoeft, and Chris Kielblock voted in favor of the denial. Commissioners Schutte Wadzinski and Mark Vis voted in opposition of the motion.
The matter will be brought before city council at their next meeting.
In other commission news:
- A change of zone request put forth by the city of Worthington was recommended for approval. If granted by city council, the property located at 1477 Knollwood Drive would move from institutional to R-1 single-family detached residential. A public hearing was held on the matter.
- A change of zone request for the Prairie Justice Center which would take the property from a transitional zone to a B3 general business district was also recommended for approval. if approved this would allow for subdivision of the property. Selof noted that none of the city’s zones exactly fit the property, but a B3 came closest and that the property should have been rezoned when it was built. If approved by the city council, city government will handle the zoning of the property, but platting requests will come from Nobles County.
- A third change of zone request was recommended for approval, which would convert properties located along the north and south side of Cecilee Street from R2 single-family low-density residential to R4 medium-density residential. The area included in this request encompasses only the newest addition to the street and if approved, would allow for two-family units on certain lots. Selof noted there was a lot of interest in the Cecilee neighborhood, and that city staff had found the change of zone was in the best interest of the city. Commissioners voted to approve the motion, with Commissioner Hoeft voting in opposition.
- Selof gave an update on the city's comprehensive plan project, set to kick off in May. There will be a joint Planning Commission and City Council meeting at the fire hall at 4 p.m. on May 24, giving an introduction to the project.