NORTH MANKATO — A proposed six-story, 108-unit, $17 million apartment complex comes before the ultimate arbiter of its fate tonight — the North Mankato City Council — after the city planning commission declined to make a recommendation and the city’s economic development arm voted in favor.
Supporters say the project will bring vitality to North Mankato’s Belgrade Avenue business district and finally fill a long-vacant lot that the city has been attempting to develop for more than two decades.
The size of the project and its proximity to a residential neighborhood, however, has sparked strong opposition from some neighbors. On Saturday, neighbors attempted to launch helium balloons 68 feet into the air to demonstrate the height of the complex.
“We want to do a visual for the neighbors here — what 68 feet looks like across from your property,” said Wheeler Avenue resident Barb Church, probably the most vocal critic of the project since it was proposed. “... It’s not the most scientific thing, but it does give you an idea.”
A light breeze left the balloons — attached to 68 feet of fishing line — less than vertical most of the time. But even at an angle, the point was made.
“I was right when I said they’ll never see the light of day,” Church said to one neighbor, gauging the angle of the sun and the shadows that would be cast by a 68-foot building.
Steven Heairet and Jackie Ellis, who live with their two children across Wheeler from the proposed project, said the council should reject the plan — which depends on city approval for a tax subsidy to help finance the project and for a conditional use permit because the building would be twice the height of the three-story maximum allowed by the city code.
The Planning Commission, which typically makes recommendations to the council on conditional use permits, declined to recommend approval or denial.