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Willmar, Minn., council to consider rezoning hearing for former school to be used as church

WILLMAR — The Willmar City Council will consider setting a date for a hearing to rezone the Lincoln School building for use as a church. The council will meet at 7 p.m. Monday in the chambers at the Municipal Utilities Building, 700 Litchfield Ave. S.W.

The school at 511 Julii St. S.E. was closed by the Willmar School Board, had been on the market for two years and was purchased in November by Casa de Misericordia (House of Mercy) Church of Willmar.

Casa de Misericordia requested the Planning Commission rezone the property from G/I (government/institution) to R-2 (one- and two-bedroom family residential). The commission approved the request and forwarded it to the council for consideration.

During a hearing Dec. 12, the commission talked about R-2 being the main zoning district in which churches are located in the community. Properties surrounding the school are zoned R-2 and P (park district).

Four people spoke in favor of the rezoning request and no one spoke against.

Commission staff said the applicant wishes to operate a church in the school. The operation is permitted in the R-2 district with a conditional use permit. Staff said use conditions can be added when the permit is requested, including fire sprinkling system and parking.

City staff recommends an ordinance to change the zoning be introduced for a public hearing at the Jan. 7 council meeting.

In other business to be considered Monday, the council will receive a recommendation from the Finance Committee to amend the 2012 budget to reflect additional costs associated with approval of the two-year labor agreement with Willmar police officers and sergeants.

The council had previously approved arbitration requirements for the Law Enforcement Labor Services group. Funds to cover the $53,724 cost will be transferred from non-departmental uncompensated absences to police department salaries, pensions and insurances.

The council will consider a recommendation from the Labor Relations Committee to proceed with issuing requests for proposals from firms to conduct an organizational analysis of the city.

Objectives include reviewing the existing organizational structure and identifying gaps or duplication; proposing options for new organizational structure; assessing the workplace culture; and soliciting feedback from employees

Other objectives are identifying opportunities for intergovernmental cooperation; succession planning; making recommendations on business practices and processes; and assessing the city’s customer service.

The Community Development Committee will recommend the council issue an unsafe building declaration for the house at 511 Seventh St. N.W. The house was built about 1873 and was owned 100 years ago by early Willmar businessman John M. Spicer.

In October, the council voted to order owner Fannie Mae, a federal agency, to repair the property, but city staff said the owner has not responded to the city. Because of continued deterioration, staff is requesting the council issue a formal declaration for the house as an unsafe building.

The declaration will be delivered to the owner and would allow 30 days to bring the building up to standards or have the building demolished. Failure to do so could result in the city pursuing court action to allow the city to demolish the structure.

Also Monday, the council:

* Will consider eight on-sale and two club on-sale Sunday liquor licenses.

* Will consider an event on-sale liquor license for a three-day Curling New Year’s Bonspiel at the Civic Center.

* Will consider establishing an absentee ballot board, which City Clerk Kevin Halliday says will bring uniformity in the process of accepting or rejecting absentee ballots in Willmar’s ward and special elections.

* Consider approving the final plat of Mills Second Addition to subdivide a portion of the South First Street property owned by Mills Properties of Brainerd into three commercial lots.

* Will recognize Ward 4 council member Doug Reese who will leave the council after 26 years of service to serve on the Kandiyohi County Board of Commissioners.

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