The Free Press, Mankato, MN

Local News

March 17, 2014

North Mankato puts land use under lens

City advises consultants writing comprehensive plan

NORTH MANKATO — The long-term future of the city’s undeveloped land, and a few of its established areas, was thrown on colorful zoning maps and subjected to the judgment of the City Council on Monday.

Consultants are in the midst of creating the city’s first comprehensive plan, and sought the council’s opinion on where homes, businesses and factories should be allowed.

The first draft of the plan, for example, has most of Northport Industrial Park, in the city’s northwest corner, zoned as “heavy industrial.”

But that designation could preclude other businesses from building there, and doesn’t even fit the existing users very well.

“Our industrial park is zoned heavy industrial but we don’t truly have a true heavy industrial user there,” City Planner Michael Fischer said.

The council agreed that it wanted to keep more flexibility here.

“I think the governing body (City Council) is of the mind that they don’t want to handcuff anybody to a particular zoning,” City Administrator John Harrenstein said.

Flexibility was a byword throughout the two-hour discussion, as councilors said they wanted to “guide” development, not dictate where it goes in all cases.

“We’re going to say with our plan ‘This is what I’d like to see here,’ and this is what this whole process is about,” Councilman Kim Spears said.

Discussions about plans to re-zone already-developed land were, naturally, more delicate.

For example, there were vague discussions about the future of the Camelot mobile home park, at the corner of Howard and Lor Ray drives.

“Both Mike (Fischer) and I, when we look at the future land use map, we see probably a different vision for the community in that area,” Harrenstein said of Camelot. There are synergies with the parks, including the new soccer fields, which could generate interesting opportunities, perhaps mixed-use, he said.

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