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Dickinson Commission denies rezone proposal for housing in commercial area

At some point, a city's business district has to transition to housing, and vice versa, but how that transition should be zoned can affect future development and landowners.

At its regular meeting at City Hall on Wednesday morning, the Dickinson City Planning and Zoning Commission discussed whether to allow a section of land, owned by the Lamont Corp., north of the Hampton Inn to be rezoned from community commercial -- which is what most of the area around Highway 22 immediately north of Interstate 94 is zoned -- to medium- to high-density residential for apartment buildings and townhomes.

"This piece of land has been sitting for a lot of years and hasn't been developed," Commissioner Gene Jackson said. "I just keep saying to myself if this is what would help it develop -- infill kind of development -- then I don't know why it would be so bad to go from (community commercial) to (high-density residential)."

The commission voted 8-1, with Commissioner Tracy Tooz as the lone dissenting vote, to recommend denial of the proposal to rezone the land from commercial to high-density residential, but Jackson said he would be open to entertaining a planned unit development from the owner.

There is a storm water drainage issue on the land that would need to be resolved before any development begins.

The property owners to the north, which is zoned low-density residential, were opposed to the rezoning as proposed at Wednesday's meeting.

The city staff recommended denial of the rezoning as well.

"Compliance with the city's comprehensive plan, the future land use map, the future land use designation for that property is commercial," City Planner Steve Josephson said. "It's also adjacent to commercial development to the south and west as well as primarily commercial zoning to the east and the introduction of high-density residential development into this parcel would result in potential conflicts between compatible land uses."

The city has been approving rezoning through the use of planned unit development, rather than straight rezoning, and this rezoning was not submitted that way, Josephson said. Approving it would go against a developing city policy.

"I recognize that it doesn't comply with the comprehensive plan," Jackson said. "I know we also talked that this first year we may have some fine tuning with the land use part of that comprehensive plan."

Transitioning the land from commercial to apartments would not serve it well, Commission Chairman Earl Abrahamson said.

The idea of using the land for apartments to buffer between the single-family homes and the commercial buildings was just as desirable, if not better, than keeping the land for commercial use, Jackson said.

"We did have some opposition from the residents to the east about the commercial aspects of this," he said. "I'm just doing some soul searching here and I'm not sure I see that to be an issue with this request."

Because of the commercial development in the area, Josephson said the land might be best off if used as more commercial because there is a lot of residential coming in to Dickinson.

"If you rezone that and take that out, you also have lost those opportunities for commercial within the city and close to the core of the city," he said.

Commercial areas need to be protected, Community Development Director Ed Courton said.

"The reason that this property hasn't developed is not -- it may not be the demand," he said.

Katherine Grandstrand
I graduated from Bemidji State University in 2007 with a bachelor's degree in mass communcations, from Columbia College Chicago in 2009 with a master's degree in journalism.  
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