WORTHINGTON — Former Worthington Mayor Alan Oberloh was granted a conditional use permit for a new event center at Tuesday night’s meeting of the Worthington Planning Commission. The property, located at 1815 East Ave., can be rented out for parties, meetings, weddings and other similar events.
During the public hearing portion of the meeting, Oberloh said that turning the space into an event venue was not his original plan, which is why he applied for a conditional use permit after a large part of the installation has already been renovated.
“When I bought (the property) it was really a wasted room,” Oberloh said, detailing the many demolition projects and work he did on the former cattle-selling pavilion to make it an appropriate event space. “The buildings were rough.”
Now, after three years of work – and a lot of revised planning – Oberloh says the installation is just over two weeks away from completion and already receiving requests.
Several members of council expressed concern about the possibility of noise complaints coming from the property and considered adding a limit on the hours of operation. However, due to the distance between the venue and the nearest dwelling house – as well as the constraints of city festivals and the gathering status, which limits noise pollution between 11 p.m. and 7 a.m. – this concern was ultimately dismissed.
Still, the commission pondered at length whether the building met the necessary parking requirements, as the land had no hard surface. City code allows high-density crushed stone as an alternative to paved surfaces in low-traffic, occasional-use circumstances. Having found the current city code verbiage to be “hard to work with”, there was some debate as to whether the site space would qualify for low volume and occasional use.
“All I can tell you is that the spirit of what I’m trying to do meets the criteria for occasional low-volume use,” Oberloh said.
The conditional use permit was granted unanimously with the understanding that the property would experience light traffic and that the city may make revisions to text dealing with parking and traffic restrictions to ensure the property is in compliance .
The Planning Commission also heard a request from a local resident, who requested a waiver that would allow the construction of a fence within the required “visual clearance” area of her corner lot on Paulson Avenue. City code currently states that any structure over two and a half feet tall must be set back 25 feet from the point of intersection with the street so as not to obstruct visibility.
Jolene Ennenga submitted the request to add a four foot high fence, made of wrought iron or similar material, in the area of required vision clearance, to create a fenced area for her dog and prevent people from walking on her lawn, which she said is a problem. Ennenga planned to angle the fence away from the corner of the sidewalk, but due to the small size of the lot, she wouldn’t be able to meet the 25-foot requirement without limiting the size of her yard.
“I think a fence is necessary,” Ennenga explained. “At all times, there are people crossing the yard. There are dogs in the yard, there are children in the yard… I can’t force people to be courteous, but a fence would alleviate that problem.
City staff had recommended the deviation be denied on the grounds that it did not meet the uniqueness factor of the city’s three-factor test, conflicted with the vision clearance requirement, and could cause safety issues with the nearby intersection while setting a dangerous precedent. .
“I think most people sit higher than four feet in their car,” council member Drake Hagen said. “It’s not a busy intersection. I don’t see a public safety issue here.
Hagen also said there was an argument to be made that preventing people from entering the yard, especially with an animal, could also be considered a safety issue.
Ultimately, the committee approved the variance in a split vote, with committee members Andy Berg, Hagen, Lizabeth Lerma, and Jason Gerdes voting to approve the request on the condition that the fence remain transparent and move back 10. feet, instead. of the 25 feet required. It was also suggested that the traffic and safety committee be asked to consider a stop sign at the intersection of Paulson Avenue and 11th Street to address additional safety concerns. Councilman Chris Kielblock and Commissioner Erin Schutte Wadzinski voted against the request.
In another action, the planning commission discussed changing the current land-to-surface ratio requirements in the city code. These requirements, specific to the different zoning districts, determine the maximum floor area allowed for the building or buildings directly related to the gross area of the land.
Cities such as Marshall and New Ulm have floor area ratio requirements, and City of Worthington staff believe the current requirements are actually detrimental to development and do very little to preserve the natural environment. . Staff is considering removing city code requirements. Planning commission members agreed and said they would support withdrawal.