Park Rapids Planning Commission plans medium-density residential area
Recommended for city council approval are comprehensive plan and future land use map amendments for a 15.52-acre area off Riverside Avenue.
The Park Rapids Planning Commission backed a request Oct. 26 to amend the comprehensive plan and future land use map guiding future development of 35 parcels in the Riverside Avenue neighborhood.
The proposed amendment affects a 15.52-acre area encompassing the two blocks between 5th and 6th St. from Washington Ave. to Riverside Ave.; the first block south of 6th St. on both sides of Riverside Ave.; and everything between Forest Ave. and the Fish Hook River as far south as 8th Street.
These parcels are currently guided for single-family residential development but, with the city council’s approval, will be amended to multiple-family residential.
City Planner Andrew Mack said the proposal started with a request by David Bitker to rezone his property at 604 Riverside Ave. from R-1 single-family to R-3 medium density residential.
Mack combined Bitker’s request into a proposal to guide a larger area for higher density residential development in the future. He pointed out that the area already includes a triplex, a duplex, a two-story apartment building and townhomes.
“We wanted to have a good, contiguous district,” he said. “We wanted to guide and encourage areas to be consistent with their current use. And we also wanted to create an opportunity for future densification in this area.”
Mack’s written advice to the planning commission further explained that the changes “represent an effort to guide a slightly larger area of property for higher density in the urban core … where infrastructure is currently available to handle residential increases over time,” and to support future rezoning requests to that purpose.
Neighborhood resident Stephen Pritchard questioned whether the amendment means a redevelopment plan is in the works. Mack stressed that the comprehensive plan and future land use map are only intended to guide future development in a neighborhood, while zoning amendments control what uses can be developed on a specific parcel.
Pritchard asked whether property taxes would be affected by the change in planning guidance. Mack said no, since the city and county’s tax classification is based on actual use of the property.
Asked whether there will be a trickle-down effect from adjacent properties, Mack said, “There should not be.”
Bitker commented that he approached a city planner many years ago about the improper zoning of his property and was told the city would do nothing about it.
“I always had it in my mind to take this one building and do what I’m planning to do with it now, but it just never worked out until this coming year,” he said.
Planning commissioner Robb Swanson moved to recommend the planning amendment for city council approval, and the motion passed unanimously.
The planning commission also held four separate hearings to rezone the following properties from R-1 single-family residential to R-3 medium density residential.
The duplex at 604 Riverside Ave. owned by Bitker.
The duplex at 601 Riverside Ave. owned by Aaron Halik.
The duplex at 607 Riverside Ave. owned by James and Beverlee Hallaway with MLRAE Corp.
The single-family dwelling at 603 Riverside Ave., occupied by owner Carol Snelling – requested by the city to create a contiguous R-3 zoning district on that block.
A city-owned parcel on the Fish Hook River at 6th St. E., adjacent to the River Heights Apartments, which contains a lift station but is otherwise undeveloped.
Also being rezoned at the city’s request as R-3 is the River Heights Apartments at 500 Riverside Ave., owned by the Park Rapids Housing and Redevelopment Authority, currently zoned R-2 single, two-family and townhouse residential.
Pritchard asked whether the applicants have any current plans to build on their properties, voicing concern about added traffic and parking in the neighborhood.
Mack said the requests were prompted by planning staff reaching out to landowners about non-conforming uses in the R-1 district.
“There’s a clear advantage for them to rezone so that the use is consistent with the zoning,” he said. “One would be that if they were to expand, they could in the future, provided that they can meet all the requirements. There is no intended plan of that sort.”
Mack said these zoning actions will not force anyone (such as Snelling) to change their use of the land, since single-family residences are in conformity with an R-3 district.
City council representative Liz Stone made the motions supporting the Bitker, Halik and Hallway requests. Swanson moved to recommend council approval of the city’s zoning requests. All four motions passed unanimously.
Mack and Planning commissioner Scott Hocking reported about the Government Training Services land use conference they attended Oct. 12-13.
They said GTS provided a link to review the virtual training sessions, valid until Nov. 14.
Commissioners discussed using this opportunity to brush up on planning practices. They arranged to meet Nov. 5, 10 and 12 to study the material.