Officials want to hear from property owners along Crookston’s gateway corridors

    The many months-long continuing discussion about the establishment of “gateway overlay districts” at the primary entrances to Crookston has reached the point that in a month or two, the City Planning Commission will invite the public and, specifically, property owners occupying those main entrances to town to a forum, of sorts, to get their input.

    “I don’t know if we need a full-on community forum at this point, but it would be nice to get some suggestions, commission chair Joe Kresl said this week. “We’ve been kicking this around for a while now, so it’s maybe time to bring in some ideas from the outside.”

    Gateway overlay districts aren’t about forcing current property owners to make their properties conform to a certain appearance standard. Instead, gateway overlay districts exist in many communities in order to have a positive impact over the long-term, such as when a property in such a district is sold or otherwise changes hands, or the property’s use changes. When things like that happen, the property in its updated status is then required to be in compliance with the terms of the gateway overlay district.

    By the time the public forum is scheduled, the plan is for the commission to have established a “purpose statement” that best explains the mission and goal of putting gateway overlay districts on the books in Crookston. The statement will help drive discussions going forward, City Administrator Shannon Stassen says. Commission members are currently studying examples from other communities as they look to form one specific to Crookston.

    With so many businesses at Crookston’s main entrance corridors already “doing a great job,” Stassen said a gateway overlay district would protect those property owners. “We want to encourage and applaud those that are doing a great job, because they’ll conform and protect their assets so someone doesn’t come in later and do shoddy work next to them,” he explained. “We can’t go back and enforce, but as usage changes or ownership changes, we’ll have an opportunity to make a difference over time. Five, 10, 15 years down the road as (property ownership or usage changes), you’ll have an opportunity to enforce it, and you’ll see steady improvement in these corridors.”

    Officials are hopeful a public input session will bear fruit. A similar session was held in the latter stages of the lengthy planning process for the City’s Property Maintenance Code, Building Official Matt Johnson says, and ideas and feedback from that session resulted in changes that ended up being included in the final draft of the code that was approved by the city council.

    Stassen says the hope would be that property owners along primary entrance corridors who could benefit from some improvements would attend such a session, too. “Not to be browbeat, but maybe to get some resources or take part in a discussion that helps move them forward,” he said.