Nuns, neighborhood and developer struggle to solve pasture puzzle | Local News

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MANKATO – An eight-acre grazing land adjacent to a century-old Mankato neighborhood will not become home to a large apartment building aimed at low-income tenants.

This appears to be the only thing that has been decided six months after the Sisters of Notre-Dame school publicly began community discussions about the impending sale of their pasture – and the rest of the Notre-Dame du Bon Conseil campus.

The Southwest Minnesota Housing Partnership, which specializes in creating affordable rental housing for low-income Minnesota residents, continues to be interested in the development of the pasture that runs along the east side of Tourtellotte Park and the adjacent residential area. The SWMPP originally came up with concepts that included up to 83 apartments and townhouses, which sparked a big backlash in the single-family home neighborhood.

“They have sort of a potential Plan B,” said Mike Spellacy, a North Second Street resident. “It involved building houses on 12-14 lots along Fourth Street.”

About 15 residents met with representatives of the SWMHP at two recent meetings led by moderator Ronda Redmond, a resident of St. Peter who grew up in the Tourtellotte Park neighborhood.

Although the neighborhood preference is not development, Spellacy said the new concepts have received a relatively benign response because they better fit the current nature of the neighborhood than the original idea of ​​a three-story apartment building. and rows of townhouses. SWMHP’s smaller-scale alternative also includes the ability to move the large community gardens, currently housed at Good Counsel’s hilltop campus, to pasture.

“We asked about financing, rentals versus owner occupancy, size and scope of homes, if there would be lanes,” Spellacy said. “There weren’t a lot of details.

There was also no anger and screaming at the two recent meetings that allegedly dominated a neighborhood meeting hosted by the SWMPP last summer.

“People who attended both sessions raised valid concerns and made connections with their neighbors and perhaps came up with ideas that no one had thought of before,” Redmond said.

Spellacy, who once represented the north side of Mankato on city council, hopes the current council will listen to some of these ideas in an upcoming working session requested by current Ward 2 council member Dennis Dieken.

Under city policy, developers of residential subdivisions are required to reserve land or contribute financially to the creation of future parks for the people who will live in the area. Spellacy wonders if council would be willing to let one of these developers buy the Good Counsel pasture as a contribution to the park, allowing it to remain a green space.

Another idea, he said, would be for the city to provide some of the land in the Rasmussen Woods Nature Area to be used for the development of affordable housing apartments – and then replace that land with a new municipal nature park on the Good Counsel pasture. parcel.

“It was our hope, that we could come up with our suggestions and see if there is stomach for it,” said Spellacy.

Dieken said he was open to brainstorming during the council’s working session, the date of which has not yet been set. But his primary motivation for requesting a discussion is to determine the parameters of what type of development will be allowed to occur on the pasture plot.

“The main thing would be to establish what the property could be used for if it is a residential development,” said Dieken.

SWMPP said it was initially misinformed about the property’s zoning by city staff, who then clarified that the organization’s higher density concepts such as the apartment building would be banned in under the R-2 zoning of the region. Dieken hopes that the working session will specify precisely the number and types of housing that would be authorized. And he wants to know if the council supports the extension of the ordinance on the rental density of the city, which is in place in the existing district of the park of Tourtellotte, to the pasture plot. If the ordinance were extended, the vast majority of new homes built there would have to be owner occupied.

“We would like to have a very clear idea of ​​the use of the land,” he said, adding that it is only fair for the developer to know the rules that will be applied before investing more time and money in a proposed project.

The future use of the land is further complicated by the motivations of the seller.

The School Sisters have two main goals in divesting the property they have owned in Mankato for over 100 years. The sale of the property, which was listed on a real estate website for $ 10.6 million, aims to generate income for the congregation of aging nuns and relieve them of the burdens of property management. But the nuns also want the next use of the property to be in line with their mission and values, which is why they have given the SWMHP the opportunity to develop a plan to provide housing to people who would otherwise need hard to afford a quality home.

Although the Sisters of the school have sent no representatives to recent meetings, Redmond fully expects them to continue to seek a just future for the pastures.

“They kept this land for a century,” she said. “It’s their right to do their last act of service on Good Counsel Hill whatever they want.”


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