by Dennis Dalman
Many of the residents of the Huntington neighborhood residents in Sartell spoke up to share their concerns about a major new zoning plan at the Sept. 14 City Council meeting.
“Huntington,” as it’s known, is a residential area in south central Sartell, east of Pinecone Road, connected to roadways such as Heritage Drive and Roberts Road. It is an area of mainly single-family homes and an increasing number of apartment complexes.
Twenty people – all but two or three of them Huntington residents – shared their viewpoints with the council during a public hearing that lasted 90 minutes. Among their major concerns are big apartment buildings in their neighborhood causing an increase in traffic volume, crimes of theft and feelings of boxed-in density.
Sartell Mayor Ryan Fitzthum thanked those who shared their concerns at the meeting and via phone calls and emails. The council will meet to discuss their concerns and other aspects of the zoning plan at a special meeting starting at 4:30 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 22, at the Sartell Community Center. The council will meet at the Center through October because its City Hall meeting room is currently under re-construction.
Later, at its next meeting on Sept. 28, the council will consider adopting the new, detailed, comprehensive zoning-ordinance amendment.
The council is currently deliberating about whether to approve dramatic changes in the Sartell zoning amendment after a zoning moratorium on planned-unit-development zones was imposed in November of last year by the council. The council was seeking a more comprehensive, streamlined, efficient way of zoning regulations that would benefit residents, businesses, developers and other city factions. Many hours of coordinated work were spent examining past zoning rules. Those involved with the study included Northwest Associated Consultants, city staff, council members, residents, developers, businesses, home-building organizations and others.
The new comprehensive zoning plan proposes the elimination of almost every R-5 Planned-Unit-Development (PUD) zone. That type of zoning permits almost any kind of development (residential, business, multi-family apartments) The city wanted to reconsider where to allow the dramatic increase in big apartment buildings that had sprung up throughout Sartell.
The new zoning-plan proposal would eliminate PUDs and replace them with one or more of a mixture of the following: R-1 (single-family residential), R-2 (two-family residential), R-3 (multiple-family residential such as huge apartment buildings), R-R (rural residential) and various business districts (B-2, B-3).
The first speaker at the Sept. 14 public hearing was Steve Gottwalt of St. Cloud of the Central Minnesota Builders Association. He praised the zoning changes for their flexibility, their streamlining of rules and regulations and many other improvements.
The following speakers shared their worries and concerns, which included: high-density apartment complexes causing a big increase in traffic volume and subsequent dangers, especially to children, of speeding and going through stop signs; crimes, such as people stealing items from garages and/or vehicles; lowered property values; and opposition to a plan for a commercial storage company next to Brianna Drive, among other concerns.
Most speakers emphasized they are absolutely not opposed to apartment buildings or other residential options. But they all added such large apartment complexes should be spread throughout the entire city and that too many have been built in the Huntington area. One man said too many residents there have begun to feel boxed-in, that they look out windows and see huge apartment complexes next to them or near them. One woman spoke about a garage burglar who was also arrested for domestic abuse. Some also mentioned thefts from garages – the culprits residents of the big apartment complexes caught on video or in person by people in the neighborhood. Others said they are worried about safety for their children, themselves and neighbors due to the increase in density, traffic and crimes.
The speakers told the City Council that Huntington and adjacent areas should remain residential but not with so many new large apartment complexes.