Public feedback will be accepted through April 5 before final tweaks and likely vote

    City of Crookston Planning Commission members and City Administrator Shannon Stassen will accept public feedback on the City’s proposed-for-adoption “Gateway Overlay District” at several primary entrance arteries into the community through April 5, before they make final tweaks to the proposed ordinance’s language in advance of a city council vote.

    But at a public forum this week hosted by the commission to answer questions, allay concerns and further detail the Gateway Overlay District proposal, the commission realized it had some more work to do on the ordinance, or, specifically, more detail needs to be added to the language.

    Siblings Mike Nelson and Kristi Nelson, representing NAPA/Crookston Welding located along Old Highway 75 and one of the proposed Gateway Overlay District routes, asked several questions about how the ordinance would impact them, and commissioners were unable to provide specific answers.

    “We’re looking for specifics,” Kristi Nelson said, specifically wondering if there’s more fine print among the language that indicates businesses in their current state in the overlay districts would be “grandfathered” in and, if nothing changes at their business, they wouldn’t necessarily be forced to make any improvements to their buildings or property. “If there’s something more we could read, like we’re grandfathered in, but…” Kristi Nelson continued.

    “It’s not that I don’t want to work with you or that I wouldn’t want to improve my facility, I’m just wondering what we could do or what we have to do,” Mike Nelson added. “It doesn’t say anything in there about turning a business over to a family member or selling it. I’m looking for more rules or guidelines to go by. And what happens if you don’t” do what the Gateway Overlay District requires.

    Work on the potential establishment of a Gateway Overlay District in Crookston began more than a year ago, with the idea that as the plan neared its completion, a public form like the one held Tuesday would be held. Around a half-dozen impacted property owners attended.
    
What it’s all about

    The concept of adopting a Gateway Overlay District was initially introduced for inclusion in the recent updated comprehensive plan approved by the Crookston City Council. Such a district was subsequently included in the plan, known as “Crookston Tomorrow, Comprehensive Plan 2035.”

    A gateway overlay district includes all land and structures located within 150 feet of either side of the right-of-way.

    The proposed district in Crookston includes:

    • East Robert Street from Polk County Road 214 to Ash Street

    • Sixth Street west from North Main to University Avenue

    • University Avenue

    • West Fisher Avenue

    • East Fisher Avenue

    • Fairfax Avenue

    • Third Avenue South

    • Third Avenue Southwest

    • Old Highway 75 from U.S. Highway 75 to South Main

    • U.S. Highway 75 from 290th Street Southwest to Polk County Road 233/Marin Avenue

    A gateway overlay district doesn’t require nor does it result in immediate, significant changes to properties located along primary transportation corridors in the community. Its impact would be observed over several years in the district’s defined areas because certain aesthetic qualities would be required when developments occur at properties located in the gateway overlay district. Single family residences would be exempt from the ordinance, however.

    Basically, the idea behind the aesthetic guidelines and development standards required as part of a gateway overlay district is meant to leave the public, predominantly those driving through a district, with a positive impression of the community.

    Things that would be prohibited from the gateway overlay district include adult-use establishments, transmission towers and structures (unless they blend with the surrounding area and secure a conditional use permit first), prefabricated/modular home sales and accessory structure sales, and salvage/junk yards.

    Mike Nelson wondered if Crookston Welding would be considered a salvage yard. Commissioners said at this point they weren’t 100 percent sure. If it is considered a salvage yard, “And I give it to a family member, do I have to move out of town?” he asked. Planning Commission Chair Joe Kresl said he didn’t think that would happen.

    “I’m not saying I don’t want to work with you guys; I could put up some new fencing and things like that,” Mike Nelson said.

    He also asked what constitutes a “new addition.” Commissioners said something like installing a new overhead door would not make the business subject to the Gateway Overlay District, but anything new that is built and expands the business would subject it to the district’s requirements.

    Commissioners and City officials stressed that the impact of a Gateway Overlay District is slowly felt and observed over many years. Although the hope is that a new business coming in next door and looking nice will spur adjacent property owners to make various improvements because of pride and also to keep property values up, the overlay district requires no one to make any immediate changes.

    “No one is going to be knocking on your door saying you have to do this, this and this,” Commissioner Bryan Schipper noted. “…Existing businesses will be grandfathered, but we hope to get the knowledge out there about keeping things up. I said all along, ‘How do we give something like this some teeth?’ I wouldn’t want to put a $1.5 million building up and having two buildings next to me looking like crap.”

    “This is a decades-long process; we don’t want to force anything down anyone’s throat,” Stassen explained. “If we’d done this 25 years ago we’d be seeing some of the improvements and results by now. We think it’s time to get something like this in place.”