Landowner appeals low-income home plan permit

WILLMAR -- The Willmar Planning Commission's approval of a conditional use permit for a low-income, twin-home development in southwest Willmar has been appealed to the Board of Zoning Appeals.

WILLMAR -- The Willmar Planning Commission's approval of a conditional use permit for a low-income, twin-home development in southwest Willmar has been appealed to the Board of Zoning Appeals.

Gary Peterson of Willmar has appealed the Planning Commission's Jan. 9 approval of the conditional use permit for the Westwind Estates Third Addition development.

The Board of Zoning Appeals will consider Peterson's appeal at 5 p.m. on March 10 at the Willmar Fire Hall, according to Megan Sauer, city of Willmar planner.

Peterson says the conditional use permit does not meet three of seven affirmative findings of fact needed to approve a conditional use permit:

- That neighborhood property values will not be substantially diminished or impaired.


- That normal and orderly development and improvement of other property in the neighborhood will not be impeded.

- That the use conforms, or is complementary, to neighborhood characteristics of the district in which it is located.

The 22-acre Westwind Estates, proposed by the Southwest Minnesota Housing Partnership of Slayton, is generally located about half a block south of Richland Avenue Southwest and is bounded by 16th Street Southwest on the east, 23rd Avenue Southwest on the south, and existing single-family homes on the west.

The project consists of 34 units, of which 22 units are "lease-to-own'' twin homes; 6 single-family detached homes for sale; and 6 low-income rental units.

Peterson says the Planning Commission's decision has already affected neighborhood property values because real estate agents say potential buyers are not willing to look at homes near Westwind.

Peterson said Westwind has affected nearby neighborhood development plans. He said Don Williamson has withdrawn an 11-acre residential proposal because four families are reassessing their commitment to his development.

Peterson said an abutting landowner to the southwest testified to the Planning Commission that Westwind would ruin an eventual residential development of $400,000 homes. Also, Peterson said a single-family development on his 23 acres located directly south of Westwind would be nearly impossible.

Finally, Peterson said a low-income development located near single-family homes owned mostly by retired couples "would be totally out of character,'' and that twin homes would be different from existing homes.


The appeal was mentioned Wednesday night during the Planning Commission's meeting during which the commission approved the Westwind final plat. The plat will be considered Monday night by the City Council.

Bruce Peterson, director of city planning and development services, said testimony taken by the Board of Zoning Appeals will be limited to the three findings. Both Gary Peterson and the housing partnership will be given opportunities to state their case.

Also, the Planning Commission record will be considered to determine if the commission's findings were based on factual testimony.

Peterson said the board's decision to either uphold or overturn the commission's decision is final, but may be appealed to district court.

Peterson said the permit allows the property to be subdivided for development of owner-occupied twin homes. If the commission's decision is overturned, the developers could develop twin homes as rental units and there would be no appeal of that decision, he said.

Planning Commission Chairman Andrew Bjur said no public hearing was required to approval the Westwind final plat. Rick Goodemann, housing partnership executive director, praised the commission's approval.

"It would be nice to get this project started,'' he said.

The partnership, which bought the land from Gary Peterson, had been asked to consider moving the dedicated city park in the plans closer to the existing homes. The move would provide a green space between the existing homes and proposed twin homes.


Goodemann said the partnership had wanted to combine the park with the storm water pond, which would have moved the park to the west side, and would have given the city additional ability to absorb more storm water.

"So we thought it was a better layout, more efficient,'' he said.

However, the partnership was unable to move the park because the purchase agreement with Gary Peterson prevented moving the park, and required 16th Street Southwest and 17th Street Southwest to be extended to Peterson's other property.

Goodemann said the park was part of an earlier plat, and he said Peterson required the partnership to keep the park in its originally dedicated location.

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