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Willmar City Council encourages changes be made in plat for housing development

WILLMAR -- Southwest Minnesota Housing Partnership is being encouraged to modify the preliminary plat of a housing project in an effort to reduce opposition from neighboring homeowners and landowners.

The council Tuesday night approved the partnership's preliminary plat of Westwind Estates Third Addition, a development in southwest Willmar of mostly twin homes and some single-family homes designed for low-to-moderate income persons.

But the council suggested the partnership work with city officials to modify the plat by moving a dedicated park area in the development closer to existing single-family homes. A plat is a drawing of lots, streets and open areas.

Supporters of the suggestion believe the park would serve as a buffer between the proposed development and neighboring homes whose owners say the smaller twin homes are not compatible with the larger, existing homes.

The preliminary plat was approved by the Planning Commission on Jan. 9 and requires council approval, said Bruce Peterson, director of planning and development services.

"If Southwest wants to come in with something different and begin discussions with the Planning Commission and staff, that's their call,'' he said. "Right now, we have a plat application on the table that I believe needs to be addressed by the City Council.''

Mayor Les Heitke agreed, saying the council has something to deal with.

"If you want to change it, you've got to come back,'' Heitke said to Rick Goodemann, executive director of the Southwest Minnesota Housing Partnership of Slayton.

Goodemann said the partnership was not opposed to the modification.

"We do believe it's an improvement to the development,'' Goodemann said, but he added some issues need to be worked out.

One issue would be vacating the dedicated park area.

The process of vacating and moving the park would require Planning Commission and council hearings.

Also, City Administrator Michael Schmit said the city had hoped to include construction of the streets in the development in the 2008 improvement program.

He thought the work could still be done this year, however.

The idea of moving the park was raised by council member Ron Christianson at the Jan. 9 commission meeting.

Christianson said the modification would result in a better plan, "and I think the neighborhood will be jubilant about this. At least it's got to be considered.''

Council member Denis Anderson said the council needed to approve the preliminary plat, but strongly encouraged the partnership and city staff to make the modification work.

The plat was the second of two housing partnership issues facing the council Tuesday night.

In a tie vote, the council failed to override the Planning Commission's approval of a conditional use permit for the partnership's project. The permit was needed to allow the property line to be drawn down the center of the common wall of each twin home, which will allow the partnership to sell the twin homes for owner occupancy.