by Dennis Dalman
At long last, after a year of studies and fine-tuning, the City of Sartell now has a new land-use zoning map.
At its Sept. 28 meeting, the Sartell City Council unanimously approved the new zoning map that eliminates the R5-PUD (Planned-Unit Development) category.
In its action, the council unanimously approved the zoning map, the zoning district amendments and the rezoning of some parcels.
The new map and the meticulously detailed amendments were the result of studies, public surveys, a public open house, city-staff input and working out complex details with a planning consultant, real-estate people, developers, businesses, residents and many others. That extensive work came in the wake of a citywide moratorium on R5-PUDs, which began Sept. 23, 2019. The moratorium was implemented when it was decided that PUDs are not helpful in zoning and that by eliminating them there will be more options to zone parcels of property with more exactitude and flexible uses.
The new map includes the following zoning designations: single-family residential, two-family residential, multi-family residential (large apartment buildings), rural residential, light industrial, heavy business, general business and medical professional. The map, with various colors to highlight the mix of zoning, can be viewed on the City of Sartell’s website.
At the meeting, Sartell City Administrator Anna Gruber outlined the year-long history of how the new zoning amendments and the new map came to be. A city survey, Gruber noted, brought responses from 589 residents, many of whom stressed the need to maximize safety, the natural environment, economic development and housing options.
A theme – at times a conflict – developed between single-family residential neighbors and the building of big apartment complexes in or near neighborhood homes. At a public hearing in early September, about two dozen residents of the Huntington neighborhood shared concerns about increased property crimes and increased traffic in their area, which they said is caused by so many apartments in that vicinity.
At the Sept. 28 council meeting, Gruber said statistics show that crimes are not driven in the majority by the presence of multi-family developments (apartment buildings).
The new zoning plan, however, will make an effort to allow for the development of multi-unit dwellings but preferably near commercial and/or industrial areas rather than single-family home neighborhoods.
In discussing the plan before voting on it, council members did emphasize there will always be a need for a variety of housing – single-family, two-family duplex, townhomes and apartment buildings. Many people these days, it was noted, need apartments, such as students returning from college and looking to start jobs in the city or empty-nesters who feel the need for a smaller place to live (apartment).
Because the future is always unpredictable, the zoning plan is bound to not be perfect, one council member noted, but it is a good working document and can be changed to fit circumstances as they arise.
“It’s a living, breathing document subject to change,” Sartell Mayor Ryan Fitzthum said.