The Free Press, Mankato, MN

Local News

March 16, 2013

Stakes are high on Marigold variance issue

North Mankato City Council to meet Monday night to consider contentious project

NORTH MANKATO — When the North Mankato City Council meets Monday night to decide the fate of a $10 million apartment building development on a long-vacant downtown lot, council members will have to do more than decide if they like the project or not.

They'll also have to go beyond deciding if support for the contentious Marigold complex outweighs opposition.

Because the project requires a series of variances, the council will be tasked with interpreting state law -- maybe even case history -- about the legal meaning of terms like "in harmony" and "reasonable use" and "essential character of the locality." Both project developer Van Moody and neighboring homeowners opposed to his plans have hinted that the issue could go to court if they don't like the council's decision.

So, whatever the council decides, the city may end up revisiting the issue in a courtroom.

Following is some information from the League of Minnesota Cites and a Twin Cities land-use attorney about the reasons cities are restricted by state law in issuing variances and some of the issues the council must wrestle with.

"Safety, morals and

general welfare"

A variance, essentially, is permission from a city council for a property owner to break the rules. The rules are land-use restrictions in the city code that regulate where certain types of buildings can be built, how they can be used, how big they can be, how much open space must be left around them, and much more.

State law explains why an individual's property rights can be restricted, saying the rules promote "the public health, safety, morals and general welfare ... ."

The ordinances also protect the value of neighboring properties by preventing, say, a hog rendering plant from sprouting up next to restaurant or a 20-story  office building from being placed in a housing development.

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