Moratorium proposed in Coon rapids industrial zoning areas

A six-month moratorium has been proposed on development and construction on currently undeveloped parcels zoned industrial in the city of Coon Rapids.

But the Coon Rapids City Council was not comfortable adopting an emergency ordinance, which would have put the moratorium in place immediately, as was recommended by Community Development Director Marc Nevinski.

Instead, at its meeting May 15, the council introduced the moratorium ordinance, meaning that it will come back to the council at its June 5 meeting for consideration of adoption.

Councilmembers wanted time to think about the implications of the moratorium before taking a final vote and felt that an emergency ordinance was moving the process too quickly.

Indeed, Councilmember Jerry Koch voted against the ordinance introduction, while Councilmember Scott Schulte, while supporting the introduction, said he was not sure he would vote for the ordinance’s adoption.

According to Koch, what concerned him was the “heavy handedness” in the way the proposed emergency moratorium ordinance was handled in letting the property owners know what the city intended.

One developer was informed of the letter arriving on Tuesday afternoon; the council meeting was Tuesday evening, Koch said.

What Koch does not want the ordinance to do is preclude a purchase agreement currently being negotiated on a parcel of industrial property from being held up by a moratorium, he said.

He is a little more comfortable now that the ordinance is not an emergency measure and property owners have time to contact the city with any concerns they might have, Koch said.

According to Nevinski, staff and the Coon Rapids Planning Commission have been working for the past year on restructuring and updating the city’s land use code to ensure that development patterns and land uses align with the overall goals of the community.

In a memo to the council, Nevinski said the city has seen significant investment recently in the industrial areas of the city, much of which has been bioscience and precision manufacturing.

“Such uses align with the city’s economic development strategy of attracting bioscience and high-tech companies to the community,” he wrote.

“Furthermore, the city has a limited remaining supply of undeveloped, industrially zoned and appropriately suited land available for new investment and development.”

According to Nevinski, it is important for the city to ensure such land is put to uses that maximize achievement of the city’s goals.

Right now, the industrial district zoning permits a wide variety of industrial land uses, some of which may not align well with the city’s economic development strategy and other community goals, Nevinski said in his report to the council.

The moratorium’s purpose is to further review the industrial district zone code to study impacts of various land uses on the community as well as the alignment with the city’s economic development strategy and various other goals, he said.

While the current proposed moratorium is for six months, it could be extended “for good cause,” Nevinski said.

In an interview with the Herald following the meeting, Nevinski said the review of the code could lead to a recommendation to “compress” the types of industrial uses that would be allowed in the industrial zoning district.

According to Nevinski, all owners of undeveloped industrial parcels, 20 of them, were notified by letter of the moratorium proposal.

With the council’s action not to adopt an emergency ordinance, the property owners have been notified again of the new date for council consideration, Nevinski said.

The city has received some phone calls from property owners asking for information about the moratorium and what it would mean, he said.

Some of the undeveloped industrial parcels left in the city are remnants, which could not be developed individually, but there are some large parcels involved with significant development potential, Nevinski said.

There are no development proposals at this time for any of the undeveloped industrial parcels in Coon Rapids, he said.

“We are not in any discussions with developers right now either,” Nevinski said.

According to Nevinski, the city has had some success recently with expansion of high-tech and bioscience businesses in the city.

And staff wants to make sure that the industrial zoning code is structured to ensure that these types of companies can continue to develop in Coon Rapids, Nevinski said.

In addition, Greater MSP, a public-private partnership whose mission is to stimulate economic growth and prosperity in the Minnesota’s 13-county metro area, is making a push for development of data centers in the region, he said.

Construction of the high-speed Internet broadband project throughout Anoka County, for which the majority of the funding came from a federal grant, will serve to attract data center uses and the city code needs to be structured to take advantage of that, Nevinski said.

Peter Bodley is at peter.bodley@ecm-inc.com

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