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New childcare facility, park improvements and bus shelter being considered

WORTHINGTON -- A number of potential city projects were discussed at a Worthington Planning Commission meeting Tuesday, including a new childcare facility, improvements to Ludlow Park and a bus shelter.

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A rough idea of what the proposed Ludlow Park structure would look like. (Special to the Daily Globe)

WORTHINGTON - A number of potential city projects were discussed at a Worthington Planning Commission meeting Tuesday, including a new childcare facility, improvements to Ludlow Park and a bus shelter.

SMOC Head Start facility The commission approved a conditional use permit for the construction of a child care facility on Stower Drive, approximately 110 feet east of the intersection of Stower Drive and McMillan Street.

The Southwest Minnesota Opportunity Council (SMOC) intends to build a 6,000-square-foot building initially, with plans to expand it to 12,000 square feet when financing allows.

The building would be used to accommodate the council’s Head Start program, a tuition-free child development program for 3- and 4-year-olds. Preliminary plans show seven classrooms, a library and areas for outdoor play.

Ludlow Park The commission approved a variance for the construction of a band shell/gazebo-like amphitheatre on Ludlow Park property.

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The variance allows for the structure to be built within 30 feet of Lake Okabena, bypassing city regulations that require all non-water related structures to be at least 50 feet from the shoreline.

The amphitheatre is one part of a series of potential improvements to Ludlow Park - the initial structure will be funded by Bedford Industries. Preliminary plans also show amphitheatre seating, a new 24-stall parking lot, new restrooms, sidewalks and Ludlow apple trees on the site.

The structure would sit over a water main. Public Works Director Todd Wietzema said the location of the structure was chosen to make it easier if trouble occurred during landscaping.

“We don’t really want to put a structure with concrete stuff, which makes it harder for the water department to come in and fix that,” Wietzema said. “We thought it would be better to have grass over top of that water main rather than concrete.”

Landscaping for the project would require the removal of trees, but Wietzema said the proposed plan calls for planting more trees than are dug up.

If the plan moves forward as proposed, the dump station in the park would close.

Bus shelter The commission granted a variance to the Grand Terrace Apartments Limited Partnership to construct a bus stop shelter on the sidewalk outside of Grand Terrace Apartments, 1585 Grand Ave.

The Southwest Minnesota Housing Partnership (SWMHP), which built the Grand Avenue apartment complex, is interested in building a shelter for kids to sit in while waiting for the school bus.

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City staff expressed concern about the location of the proposed shelter - situated next to a driveway - as it could be dangerous for kids playing, and the shelter might limit the sightlines for drivers pulling out of the driveway.

Commission members encouraged the shelter be see-through to give more visibility to pedestrians and drivers, and to move it away from the driveway to reduce safety concerns.

With approval of the variance, the commission voted to have city staff review final design and placement of the shelter before it is approved.

Shawn Nelson, representing the housing partnership, said plans for the shelter were very preliminary, and nothing was finalized yet. He said the shelter could be integrated into SMOC’s Worthington bus system, scheduled to start this summer.

There are currently no such shelters in the city.

Impervious Limit Variance The commission tabled a variance application from Daniel Jensen for property he owns on Lake Avenue.

Jensen sought a variance to allow him to exceed the city’s impervious limit in order to build a 8-by-12 foot shed. Jensen is at the 40 percent impervious limit, meaning 40 percent of his property has structures or cement that covers the soil.

Jensen currently maintains 400 feet of grass in an alley that connects to the north of his property. The alley isn’t used as a typical alley, which makes his situation unique.

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Commission members expressed concern that by allowing the variance, they would set a dangerous precedent. The commission recommended Jensen petition to vacate the alley to the north of his property.

By owning one half of the alley, the increase in property size would provide enough area for Jensen to build the shed and still stay below the 40 percent limit.

Jensen said such a petition was tried years ago, and the city did not allow it. He also stressed he didn’t want to go through the trouble of asking the neighbors to go through with the petition process, which would go to city council. Nonetheless, the commission recommended a petition as the best course of action.

In other news, the commission approved a preliminary plat for South Lake Development for land it owns on First Avenue Southwest.

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A structure similar to the amphitheatre planned for Ludlow Park. (Special to the Daily Globe)

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