The Free Press, Mankato, MN

October 30, 2012

Planners pass the buck on Marigold

By Tim Krohn
Free Press Staff Writer

NORTH MANKATO — After two hours of impassioned testimony over a conditional use permit for the proposed Marigold apartment complex, the North Mankato Planning Commission decided not to decide.

The commission voted Monday night to forward the issue to the City Council with no recommendation.

The six story, 108-unit development needs a conditional use permit for only one reason — it is higher than the three-story buildings allowed in city code. The commission could add conditions to the project relating to its height, but city staff recommended the conditional use permit be granted without any conditions.

Commissioners all agreed they couldn’t think of any specific conditions that they could put on the height of a building. And City Attorney Mike Kennedy told them things like the aesthetics of the building, traffic, density or other concerns were not things the commission had authority to take into consideration.

Several commissioners said they were moved by neighbors’ concerns and they didn’t want to approve the permit without more time and thought.

“I don’t think I have the experience to make decision on what conditions should apply,” said Commissioner Mark Weinstein, who favored tabling the permit.

But Commissioner Stephanie Stoffel was ready to vote to recommend approval because no one in the room could come up with any reasonable conditions relating to height and because the city staff didn’t recommend any conditions be added.

“We have a room full of intelligent people and no one can come up with any possible conditions. All we can say is (the building’s) kinda big.”

Saying the City Council was ultimately going to have to decide whether to grant the conditional use permit and decide if the project will be built at all, the commission voted 5-2 to forward it with no recommendation.

Weinstein, Corey Brunton, Dave Trask, Mike Smith and Nick Meyer voted to take the no-recommendation route, while Stoffel and Rick Haman voted no.   

Several neighbors along Wheeler Avenue, who would be on the back side of the apartments, raised a host of concerns, often arguing the building would simply be too big and wouldn’t fit in with the flavor of Belgrade Avenue and lower North Mankato.

The project faces a hearing before the North Mankato Port Authority this morning and will be considered by the City Council on Nov. 5.

Developer Van Moody, who built the two-story Marigold I project, is hoping to win approval for the  $17 million project.

With mostly one- and two-bedroom units, the complex would aim for higher-end renters with rents estimated at $1,100 to $1,800 per month, with two penthouse suites renting for $3,500 a month.

The developer will seek tax-increment financing to help finance the project. The amount of TIF was estimated at $1.8 million when the project was first unveiled last spring. TIF is a subsidy in which additional future property taxes generated by the apartments are used, for a certain number of years, to help the developer pay for the project rather than going into the city’s general fund.

The project would include underground and surface parking and some covered parking on the first floor. The first floor would also contain a lobby, bar/lounge area for tenants, and a fitness room.

The five stories of housing would include amenities such as granite countertops and individual balconies on each room.