The Free Press, Mankato, MN

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January 21, 2014

N. Mankato passes downtown zoning overhaul

New rules to allow more types of development

(Continued)

Councilman Billy Steiner agreed that it was time to move forward with these projects: “We’ve been working on these projects for years, a couple years.”

Councilman Kim Spears focused on the plan under development, asking why the city can’t wait until “we get some reconciliation in our comprehensive plan.”

The company drafting the plan, WSB & Associates, was consulted on the proposed changes and sent the city a brief letter saying that the proposal is “consistent with the direction outlined in the comprehensive plan.”

Dehen turned to ask City Administrator John Harrenstein about whether there was a reason to pass the changes now.

Harrenstein acknowledged there are no projects that are ready to go.

“I wish I could give you a developer’s agreement and say build it, and say pass it … I don’t. That’s not what this is motivated by.”

And he suggested that the changes would inform rather than inhibit the comprehensive plan.

Dehen seemed to agree that there was little need to wait until May, when the plan will be complete.

“It informs the plan and will give us a stronger plan going forward,” he said.

Councilman Bob Freyberg abstained, saying the process to make the changes has been flawed.

The process has been unusual, at least; the proposal started at the City Council, went to the Planning Commission, back to the council, and back to the commission before being re-sent to the council.

And Freyberg contended that the proposed revisions ignored a previous downtown plan, completed by I & S Group at a cost of about $18,000. At that time, the consultants didn’t contemplate zoning changes, except for a brief mention to “develop guidelines for new buildings to complement existing building,” he said.

As with many decisions in the past few years, the mayor had the swing vote.

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