Northgate 1

Northgate 1

The city of Faribault opened up possibilities for development at the Northgate Business Park. (Spencer Beissel/southernminn.com)

Faribault city councilors on Dec. 28 gave final approval for a property change that will facilitate new development at Northgate Business Park.

Vacant for the past 20 years, the property at Cardinal Avenue and Cardinal Lane consists of eight lots. Only four have been developed, with parking and two commercial buildings.

With the other four sold to two new owners, Bhavesh Amin, representing property owner Radhe Krishna, Inc., asked the city to remove them from a Planned Unit Development (PUD) agreement reached in 2000.

The PUD process gives developers some flexibility while maintaining a property’s underlying zoning. The city and property owner reach a detailed agreement about what will be built, where and how.

The initial Northgate Business Park PUD anticipated that the property would be developed with office and retail, as well as a restaurant. An agreement between the city and developer included requirements for parking, landscaping and plantings, signage, and other details based on submitted plans.

Approval means that the new owners will be able to develop the property apart from those requirements. However, Community and Economic Development Director Deanna Kuennen said any development will still have to comply with the limits of the underlying C-2 Highway Commercial zoning.

“Now it can look different than how it was,” she said. “The PUD was very descriptive as to how (the property) could be developed.”

Both the Development Review Committee and Planning Commission recommended the action. Following a Dec. 6 public hearing, commissioners determined the change was in the public interest, as the property had been vacant so long.

They also noted a reduced demand for office and retail buildings:

“Removing the subject property from the PUD does not prevent office and retail uses on the subject property,” Kuennen said. “Rather, it expands the list of uses that can develop on the property.”

The Planning Commission received two comments during the public hearing. A property owner on one of the lots asked that a shared driveway be maintained. Also, the owner of a neighboring Days Inn expressed concern over the action.

In a letter submitted for the public hearing, Trupti Bhakta asked the commission to find out more about plans for the properties. Bhakta strongly urged rejecting the application if those plans included another hotel, because local establishments already struggle with off-season occupancy.

“The existing hotels will need years to recover from the ongoing COVID recession,” Bhakta wrote.

City officials have not received development plans from Radhe Krishna, Inc. or from purchasers GPT Development Co., LLC and Gray Family Investments, Limited Partnership.

According to city code, C-2 Highway Commercial zoning allows “vehicle-oriented” uses, such as wholesale or bulk sales, convenience shopping and food, motels, and limited production or processing facilities.

Councilors unanimously approved the ordinance amendment, with three members absent. Because five council members must vote yes to approve publishing the summary ordinance, councilors will take that final action during their January 11, 2022 meeting.

Joni Hubred is a freelance writer. Reach the editor at editor@apgsomn.com.

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