Vedbraaten votes against, saying it will discourage new businesses from coming to Crookston

    The Crookston City Council’s Ways & Means Committee this week voted in favor of enacting a Gateway Overlay District ordinance that would be in effect along several major entrances to the community. At Large Council Member Tom Vedbraaten provided the lone vote against the ordinance, saying he thinks it will serve as a deterrent to new businesses that might be interested in coming to Crookston.

    Existing commercial properties will be grandfathered in once the ordinance takes effect, and single-family residence are exempt. Over time, a gateway overlay district is designed to slowly transform the corridors within its boundaries by having commercial properties, as they change their use, build new or construct additions, etc., conform to standards in the ordinance so that the properties in the district look consistently nice and inviting.

    Over how much time and how slow will changes actually be seen? While a property here and a property there would be impacted and perhaps soon if they change their use or undergo a renovation, widespread changes along a gateway overlay district’s boundaries would likely take many years.

    “We’ve been discussing this for 30 years, since I was first on the (city) council, but we didn’t do anything,” Mayor Guy Martin said. “For that reason, we have the problems we have today. If you get this in place it’ll take care of itself over time.”

    Putting it in somewhat more blunt terms, Ward 5 Council Member Dale Stainbrook said, “I’ll probably be six feet under before we see any drastic changes with this.”

    Vedbraaten asked that Crookston’s industrial park be left out of a district boundary, saying that’s where most of Crookston’s jobs and economic impact are located. “We can’t have every place in the city be a park,” he said.

    One corridor in the industrial park, along Third Avenue Southwest in particular, needs to look better, Stainbrook said, with his concern centering on used farm equipment for sale. To that, Vedbraaten noted some antique farm equipment placed on a vacant street corner downtown by the Downtown Crookston Development Partnership that is meant to be aesthetically pleasing to passers-by.

    “The only difference is that downtown, you call it art, and (on Third Avenue Southwest) it’s for sale,” Vedbraaten said.

    City Administrator Shannon Stassen thanked the Planning Commission for working on the gateway overlay district for more than a year. “I feel that at this time, it’s time to move this forward, and over time there will be opportunities to use this ordinance when it makes sense,” he explained. “We’re trying something new. The object is to have improvement over the long term.”

    Responding to some council member concerns about the ordinance language locking the council in and leading to inflexibility as various properties within gateway overlay district boundaries need to conform, Charles “Corky” Reynolds from the city attorney’s office assured council members that at any time in the future they would have the opportunity to amend the ordinance as they see it.