The Free Press, Mankato, MN

June 20, 2013

Kia dealership plan for Eastwood Park withdrawn

By Tim Krohn
tkrohn@mankatofreepress.com

---- — MANKATO — A plan for a new Kia dealership on land next to Country Inn & Suites has been withdrawn after neighboring property owners and others objected to rezoning the land.

The four-acre undeveloped piece of land is owned by the Mankato Area Foundation and Ag Star Financial, who had a tentative deal to sell the property to Kia so it could relocate from its current location on North Riverfront Drive. Backers of the plan said the sale would be a financial boost for the foundation's charitable work and put to good use land that has high visibility along Highway 22 north.

But the land is inside the Eastwood Industrial Park and is zoned industrial with industrial or office use permitted. When the developers went to the Planning Commission seeking land-use plan amendments allowing a commercial project, they were turned down unanimously.

The commission said the land was long specified for specific uses and noted that previous attempts to have it converted for commercial use were turned down. And they noted, ample commercial land exists in the area, including just a short distance to the north, across Highway 22 from Menards.

Following the denial, the city and foundation leaders held a meeting with area property owners and other business people to see if there was support for some type of land use change that would allow for the dealership.

City Manager Pat Hentges, in a letter to City Council members, wrote, "After the meeting, it was apparent that a planned unit development or rezoning for the purpose of establishing an auto dealership in Eastwood did not have support from other property owners."

Minutes from that meeting included concerns from other developers that allowing such a change to long-standing zoning rules in the park would open a Pandora's Box because other developers would begin asking for special considerations in other areas of the city. And others said there was plenty of suitable, available and properly zoned land for a dealership to build.

A representative of Kia said the company has been looking for possible sites for an expanded dealership for three years and did not intend to create controversy with the Eastwood site.

With opposition to the plan, the owners of the property formally withdrew their application for rezoning the land.