Planning Commission approves variances for property owner to rebuild home in downtown Worthington corridor

Salvador Gonzalez lost his home to fire on July 2, 2020. He wants to rebuild on the vacant lot at 313 12th Street.

Worthington city hall

WORTHINGTON — A Worthington man who lost his home to a fire in July 2020 will get to build a new home on the same lot, following the approval of his request to vary from setback requirements by the Worthington Planning Commission Tuesday evening.

Salvador Gonzalez lost his large two-story, four square home at 313 12th St., on July 2, 2020. As one of the city’s older homes in the downtown area, it was grandfathered into setback requirements that were established long after the home was built. Essentially, it was considered a legal non-conforming property.

Had Gonzalez requested to rebuild on the site within 180 days, he would have been able to build a house with the same setbacks as the original structure. Since the 180-day period had long been surpassed, however, the city had the authority to impose reasonable conditions for any new structure, according to Worthington City Planner Matt Selof.

According to current city code, the property is subject to a 15-foot front yard setback, 20-foot rear yard setback, and five-foot side setbacks, with a minimum of 850 square feet of floor space. Since the lot is 50 feet wide by 52 feet long, the required setbacks and an existing garage provided for only a 17-foot by 40-foot buildable area.

Gonzalez requested a variance that would allow him to construct a new house with a 5-foot front yard setback, a 3-foot rear yard setback, and a 3-foot side yard setback. He also asked for permission to attach the new house to the existing garage, and to vary from the minimum floor area of 850 square feet.


Selof’s recommendation to the commission was to grant the variance from the minimum floor space, to deny the request to add the new home to the existing garage, and to work with Gonzalez to come up with reasonable setbacks for the front, rear and side yards.

“What they build is contingent on what is granted here tonight,” Selof said. “It makes sense to grant the variance from minimum floor area if they choose to build smaller.”

He also said the variance will not alter the character of the locality.

“We don’t want to break any rules. What we’ll try to do is build something that you guys would be comfortable (with),” said Roelsy Gonzalez, Salvador’s son. “We’re trying to build something kind of the same size.”

After questions were addressed and commission members considered the information, a unanimous vote was made to allow Gonzalez to build a new residence with a 10-foot front yard setback, a 15-foot rear yard setback, no change in side yard setbacks and no minimum square footage requirements. The request to attach the house to the existing garage was denied.

Julie Buntjer became editor of The Globe in July 2021, after working as a beat reporter at the Worthington newspaper since December 2003. She has a bachelor's degree in agriculture journalism from South Dakota State University.
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