Commission green-lights Ag Innovation Campus variance

Mike Christopherson
Crookston Times

    The City of Crookston Planning Commission has granted a variance requested by leaders of the Ag Innovation Campus, which will break ground on Crookston’s southern edge when the weather warms up.

    The variance will allow for various structures erected at the site south of Ingersoll Avenue and along Highway 75 to be taller than current ordinance in that zoning area allows. AIC Project Manager Jim Lambert, participating in the Tuesday evening commission meeting virtually, said the variance includes some maximum possible heights for the structures that he said might end up not being quite as high as the leeway in the variance language makes possible. Architects are still fine-tuning the final design, Lambert said.

    Once the AIC is built, structure heights, whether it’s the main facility or some of the bins and bucket elevators, will likely range from around 46 feet tall, to 60 feet and 90 feet, all the way up to 120 feet tall, Lambert said.

    He said once the structures are in place the collection of AIC bins and bucket elevators will look similar to large farm operations in the area. City Building Official Greg Hefta added that the AIC facility won’t look that much different from various commercial ag facilities located further to the south, but outside city limits.

    Buoyed by widespread state support, the AIC will be a research, education and training-based facility that crushes soybeans into meal, but will also experiment with other ag commodities as various firms and researchers are welcomed to the facility to study and conduct research on other commodity-related breakthroughs.

    Lambert said the AIC’s tallest structures will be located on the east side of the site, behind the main building, and won’t face Highway 75. The tallest structure will be closest to Ingersoll Avenue, he added.

    “We’re trying to minimize the industrial-looking things as much as possible,” Lambert explained. “We want to make the more visible sides attractive; we’re expecting international visitors and we want it to look nice, for it to be a nice place to do business, teaching, training and industrial incubation. One of our main goals is to make it look like not your typical industrial site.”

    The commission’s recommendation to approve the variance will next go the Crookston City Council.