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New industrial park moves forward

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Detroit Lakes, 56501

Detroit Lakes Minnesota 511 Washington Avenue 56501

Screening became the No. 1 issue -- among Detroit Lakes Planning Commission members anyway -- for the proposed Tower Road Industrial Park. For residents, the issue was the existence of the park as a whole.

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The proposed industrial park has 28 lots and is located on the southwest side of Tower Road. It is zoned for heavy industrial, but the Detroit Lakes Development Authority has asked for zoning to be changed to light industrial. The planning commission has the matter on its May 24 agenda.

Many residents along Tower Road and in Willow Springs would rather the park didn't exist at all and pointed out that according to the comprehensive plan, the area should be used as residential.

"Often, cities are asked to look into the future and when they don't do that, we are criticized," Mayor Larry Buboltz said of the comprehensive plan.

At last week's planning commission, most of the Detroit Lakes City Council was present, a rarity.

Buboltz continued that the industrial park likely wouldn't be used for another 15-20 years because the lots along Richwood Road's North Industrial Park aren't filled yet.

He said lack of money is also keeping the city from developing streets and other infrastructure in the proposed park, so it would be that much longer until it was developed.

"The whole idea is to look ahead and plan for it," he finished, urging the commission to approve the plan for future growth.

Residents Tom Mack and Chuck Fritz disagreed.

"I think the job of the planning commission is to protect people already living in that area," Mack said. "I think an industrial park would be a mistake."

He stated he would rather see single-family homes in that area.

"Think about getting up in the morning and looking out your picture window and seeing industrial. Put yourself in our shoes," another resident added.

The development authority members said residential would bring even more traffic to the area than industrial. The ideal vision for the city is to have the front lots along Tower Road be office-style buildings to be a buffer from the actual industrial. Although they may put some restrictions on the buildings that go in there, they also don't want to limit the businesses that could potentially locate there.

"This will negatively impact property taxes and the quality of life for me and my family," Fritz said.

He said when he bought his home in the area, he was told, according to the comprehensive plan, the area would be residential.

"Now my rhetorical question, 'what has changed over the past few years to make you want to make it industrial?'" he asked the commission.

Alderman Ron Zeman said his concern was zoning.

"I don't know if this is the best idea," he said of industrial zoning. "I don't think we're being fair to them (neighbors)."

Imagine putting an industrial park next to Timber Creek, he continued.

"If we are going to do it, for heaven's sake, give them some buffers."

Alderman Jim Anderson, who also serves on the development authority, said that in the six years he's been involved with the city, it has been known that the city was looking at making the area industrial. It's not like the idea came from nowhere, he said.

According to Community Development Director Larry Remmen, the property was annexed in 2006 and the zoning changed from agriculture to heavy industrial. The city has owned the land for seven years, about the same time the comprehensive plan was updated. He added that the large wetland on the south side of the proposed industrial park will not be touched.

A 20-foot buffer was planned for the north side of the park, giving the neighbors some screening besides Tower Road. Planning Commissioner Harry Johnston said he felt that wasn't nearly enough. He also said there needed to be some rule that all the traffic from the industrial park couldn't exit right onto Tower Road.

Remmen said there are only two businesses that need to exit directly onto Tower Road and the remaining businesses could use secondary roads to get to Highway 59 North.

Remmen also reminded the commission a decision needed to be made in 120 days from application, which was Feb. 7. The city council needs to vote on the issue the beginning of June. It will likely vote on the issue at Tuesday's meeting.

The industrial park will also be discussed Monday at 3 p.m. in the community development committee.

After being asked to be good neighbors, alderman, and chair of the planning commission, GL Tucker said he felt the city was being a good neighbor by agreeing to light industrial, providing a buffer, limiting the traffic being dumped onto Tower Road and possibly limiting the businesses in the first tier, next to Tower Road.

If the industrial park plan isn't approved, Remmen said businesses purchasing five acres or more could come in and build what they want, including heavy industrial, because it has already been rezoned.

Planning commissioner Cyndi Anderson made a motion to approve the industrial park on five conditions:

• There is a driveway limitation on those exiting onto Tower Road.

• There is a 50-foot buffer around the outside edge of the entire proposed park -- not just the north side as previously proposed.

• There is a deed restriction on the buildings in the first tier.

• There is a change in zoning from heavy to light industrial.

• All required utility easements are acquired.

"I'm not against buffering, but at the end of the day, that's (a lot)," Tucker said of the first proposed 75-foot buffer. He continued to vote against the motion because of the buffer completely around the park, saying it was only needed on the north side.

In that 50-foot buffer, the proposed greenery will be evergreen trees every 20-30 feet, with flowering crabs in between. A walking path is proposed along Tower Road as well.

Planning commissioner Roger Josephson said he agreed a buffer wasn't needed on the south side because of the large wetland already there and the east because the land directly next to the development was vacant and eventually commercial next to that.

In the final vote -- with the 50-foot buffer around the entire park -- Duane Erickson, Anderson, Chris Bergen and Steve Lund voted in favor. Tucker, Johnston and Josephson voted opposed.

It passed 4-3, and the city council is expected to discuss the issue and vote on it Tuesday at 5 p.m. in city hall.

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