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New downtown zone gets planning OK

Despite misgivings expressed by some downtown business owners the Rosemount Planning Commission voted last week to recommend the city council adopt a new Downtown Zoning Ordinance, after tabling the item on Oct. 26.

The commission tabled the item to allow staff, time to address issues brought up by business owner Don Sinnwell. Time didn't seem to change much, though, as the commission recommended the ordinance with only one slight change.

During an Oct. 26 public hearing for the ordinance Sinnwell brought a list of 16 concerns to the commission. He said the ordinance overregulated downtown business and in the end would end up hurting downtown.

In particular, he said that the performance standards were too strict and cost prohibitive for businesses. He pointed out that requiring decorative islands in parking lots was expensive and took away viable parking in an area where parking is scarce. Additionally, he said, requiring brick façade was costly. He criticized text that required six-foot fences along properties that abut residential areas.

Sinnwell also took issue with restricting automotive uses in downtown because he said historically Rosemount has had such uses downtown and that any business that brings people downtown is a good thing.

"The big question here is what are we trying to regulate?" Sinnwell told the commission on Oct. 26.

During the Nov. 23 meeting senior planner Eric Zweber addressed the concerns brought up. He told the commission the performance standards in downtown were actually relaxed a bit from the previous standard.

As for the fencing, Zweber said it will be required when other berming such as trees or bushes can't be used. It is only required between businesses and housing.

Zweber said decorative islands in parking lots serve several purposes, including stormwater treatment, cooling in the summer and a place to store snow in the winter. He also said parking lots look better with the islands.

Zweber said automotive uses often require more land than is available downtown. He added that auto related business would be better located along County Road 42.

The one change that did come as a result of Sinnwell's comments was the addition of language permitting demonstration trucks to park at businesses. The memo said the intent of this section is to prevent sales of items directly from a truck parked in a parking lot. Language was added to allow educational and demonstration trailers for a period up to 96 hours.

Currently there are a number of zones that apply to downtown. Three in particular address most of the uses. Community Commercial addresses the commercial uses, Public Institutional addresses civic uses and a Downtown Overlay District allows for mixed uses including residential.

The new ordinance will replace the Community Commercial and Downtown Overlay districts and allow for commercial, multi-residential and civic uses. Under the new zoning district buildings will be allowed to contain multiple uses without having to go through the zoning modification process.

The city council will discuss the ordinance at its Dec. 15 work session and then will likely approve the ordinance at the Jan. 4 meeting.

Other business

In other business the planning commission decided to recommend the city council approve an ordinance that will raise the maximum building height in the Business Park from 40 to 50 feet.

According to a memo to the commission, staff received some interest from a developer but the height standards in the business park would not accommodate the business. After exploring the issue staff decided it would be in the city's best interest to raise the standard. In comparison to neighboring communities Rosemount had the lowest height standards.

The planning commission, acting as the board of appeals, also approved a motion to allow joint parking in the off-street parking area at Celtic Crossing to allow for an additional restaurant use.

Emily Zimmer
Emily Zimmer has worked as a staff writer for the Rosemount Town Pages since 2007. She has a degree in journalism from Minnesota State University, Mankato. Outside of work, Emily enjoys running, reading and gardening. You can follow Emily's gardening adventures at the Areavoices blog East of Weedin'
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