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City Council approves parking lot expansion plan for Print Masters

WILLMAR -- Print Masters' plan to expand its parking lot sparked a Willmar City Council debate Monday night about the merits and detriments of increasing redevelopment of residential property near the First Street business corridor for commercial purposes.

The council voted 7-1 to approve Print Masters' plan to buy a residential property behind the company's First Street plant for additional parking. The residential property is located at 912 Second St. S.E. The Planning Commission approved the plan last week.

"We've had this discussion before about what's happening on First Street'' as commercial development moves both east and west off, Mayor Les Heitke said. "I know some of the neighbors in those residential areas don't like what's happening, but this discussion has been here before.''

Council member Jim Dokken asked to have the Planning Commission's minutes pulled from the consent agenda. Dokken said he opposed the commission's decision and would not offer a motion to approve and file the minutes, which in effect approves the commission's decision.

Quoting from the minutes, Dokken said the commission discussed the inevitable expansion of First Street commercial properties to the west side of Second Street Southeast.

The commission also discussed updating the comprehensive plan guiding this growth. Instead of reacting to requests from individual businesses, the zoning would be planned.

"To me this doesn't make any sense because we're now asking to have another house moved,'' Dokken said. "That does not sound to me like this is the way to do things.''

Richard Bistrup, who has lived at 916 Second St. S.E. for the past 27 years, opposed the plan. He believes the value of his house will change, although he said he hasn't had it appraised. He said there was already more commercial development down the block.

"Maybe in the future, but what about people that invested money ... It doesn't make sense to me,'' he said. "If (Gary Laughlin of Print Masters) does not have enough room, he should go somewhere else. People go looking for printers.''

Bistrup was also concerned about delivery truck traffic entering Second Street from Print Masters' one-way exit.

City Public Works Director Mel Odens said Second Street does not qualify as a city truck route.

Bruce Peterson, director of planning and development services, said the necessity of moving either east or west of First Street could be understood if the broader perspective of what's happening on First Street is viewed.

"The Planning Commission and staff are certainly aware of the concerns of the residential property owners on East and West Second Street. The bottom line is the City Council has determined previously that this will be a permitted use with plan review,'' he said. "So the role of the Planning Commission is to make sure that the plans for the parking meet the ordinance standards ... Beyond that, they not in a position to say yes or no to the use itself.''

The motion to file the minutes was offered by Denis Anderson and seconded by Steve Gardner. Voting in favor were Anderson, Gardner, Cindy Swenson, Ron Christianson, Doug Reese, Bruce DeBlieck and Rick Fagerlie. Voting against was Dokken.

David Little
David Little covers the Willmar City Council, Willmar Municipal Utilities and other city news.
(320) 235-1150