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Zoning change request splits Planning Commission

The discussion on allowing warehouses in the downtown area continues after a change of zone request was submitted for The Globe printing facility. Public hearings for a conditional use permit for Kivu Immigration Law and another change of zone request were also dealt with.

Worthington City Hall

WORTHINGTON — During the planning commission's Tuesday night meeting on Dec. 7, three public hearings occurred, including a change of zone request for The Globe’s old printing building, located at 310 11th St. A second change of zone request, as well as a conditional use permit, were also discussed during the meeting.

A request was submitted by Efrain Patino, owner of Thompson Mexican Grill and El Mexicano #3, to have the printing building changed from its current central business district zoning to a general business district. This would allow Patino to seek a conditional use permit for the property, to use it as a small warehouse and storage space to serve his businesses in town.

The printing facility has been for sale for around five years and a prior application to rezone the property was denied in 2018, despite the building’s setup and lack of parking making it suitable for use as a small warehouse facility.

Neighboring building owner Phil Willard and representatives for owners of the Worthington Globe production property both submitted letters in support of the zone change. However, staff recommended the application be denied, primarily to avoid “spot-zoning,” which would create a nonconforming parcel within a larger zoned district. Staff also found that the zoning change would be “incompatible” with the goals set forth in the city’s comprehensive plan and could leave the area open to future conflicts.

“I understand all these arguments and I think they're great and the growth — it's a wonderful idea,” said chairman Ben Weber, “but spot zoning is a huge hurdle for me to overcome… changing this zone here would allow future, large warehouses and everything else, which we don't want this kind of conflict with the comprehensive plan.”

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However, not all commission members were opposed to the zone change. After the public hearing where Patino and additional community members spoke in favor of the change, Commissioner Erin Schutte Wadzinski argued in favor of the spot-zoning in these “unique circumstances,” and accepting the the B-3 zoning request, which would still require a conditional use permit.

“There comes a point where I think we do need to advocate for exceptions to avoid longer vacancies and waste,” Wadzinski said.

A motion was made to approve the change of zone request and, having received 4-2 approval, the recommendation has been forwarded to the Worthington City Council to take final action on during its Jan. 10 meeting.

Kivu Law receives permit

Commissioner Wadzinski recused herself in another hearing for a conditional use permit — one that would allow her to operate her law firm, Kivu Immigration Law, at existing buildings located at 218 and 222 10th St. Both in her request letter and during the public hearing, Wadzinski stated that her business has grown faster than anticipated and to accommodate more staff in the coming year she is seeking to move to a larger building.

Multiple community members and Kivu Immigration Law staff came out to voice not only support for the conditional use permit, but for the work being done by Wadzinski’s firm.

“It is a pleasure for me to know [Erin] and to know that a young entrepreneur like her has been successful,” said Jorge Lopez, who rents the current Kivu office space to Wadzinski. “I will really appreciate your consideration for approval of this conditional use permit.”

The motion to recommend approval was passed unanimously and will go before the City Council during its next meeting for final approval.

In other action, the Planning Commission approved the recommendation for another change of zone, for a property located on the east side of Nobles County 5, from its current transition zone designation to that of a medium-density residential zone.

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Huegerich Construction, a Nebraska developer, has plans to construct multifamily housing units there, in order to serve JBS employees. Final approval by the City Council is required.

Related Topics: LOCAL BUSINESS
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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