At its Tuesday meeting, Rice County’s Board of Commissioners quietly, but conclusively shut the door on a Lonsdale businessman’s request to build a home on his property just outside of town.
The board’s unanimous decision follows the recommendation of Lonsdale’s Planning Commission and City Council. The city’s opposition, which came after the Rice County Planning Commission initially signed off on the rezoning, ultimately derailed the proposal.
Located about a quarter mile outside of Lonsdale, Kes’ 141-acre property is zoned urban reserve along with nearly all properties located within a mile of city limits. Urban reserve is a zoning designation typically used to mark land a city hopes to incorporate in the future. Lonsdale’s comprehensive land use map identifies it as appropriate for medium- to high-density residential housing.
Kes says the rezoning would enable him to build a house for his daughter. Because the home would need to be handicapped accessible, he says that other lots he’s checked out in the area just wouldn’t work.
The project initially won support, with Planning Commission member Preston Bauer noting that many cities have irregularly shaped urban reserve districts. The city weighed in after the Planning Commission’s recommendation to commissioners, saying that the project was the type of development that the URD is designed to prevent. When the request came before commissioners last month, they sent it back to the Planning Commission so it could consider Lonsdale’s perspective. That led to a turnaround, with the Planning Commission recommending not to approve.
Kes disputes that Lonsdale needs additional land for housing, noting that Lonsdale hasn’t had a major residential development since 2005. In his eyes, the city has more than enough land to accommodate growth and it’s unlikely that the land he owns will truly be needed within a reasonable timeframe.
Between 2018 and 2020, Lonsdale approved 125 permits for single-family homes, far more than any other Rice County city.
The city’s objections forced county officials to take a closer look at the application, and Commissioners didn’t like what they saw. Commissioner Jeff Docken, who represents the area, noted the property is mostly embedded in the urban reserve district with only a small portion touching its edge.
Commissioner Steve Underdahl said that Lonsdale has every reason to want to protect neighboring areas for future development. Underdahl said that he’s particularly sympathetic to the city’s case because the land is designated in Lonsdale’s Comprehensive Plan.
“They want to be able to grow into (their URD), and don’t want it to be taken away,” he said. “Most municipalities covet that land.”
Even though residential growth may be more of a challenge, Docken noted that Lonsdale has seen substantial business growth. Lonsdale’s business park could be filled up by the end of the month, with all but one spot filled and a letter of intent reserving that one.
“Lonsdale is a community that is growing so fast that it’s at the point of running out of lots,” he said.
City Administrator Joel Erickson, who testified before the Planning Commission against Kes’s proposal, said that the city is in regular contact with businesses interested in expanding in Lonsdale, including near Kes’s property.
For Docken, Lonsdale represents an economic success story providing benefits for all of Rice County. He gave much of the credit to Lonsdale’s city leadership for promoting the community as a destination for both new residents and businesses.
“It’s crazy to see the growth that they’ve had,” he said. “If they didn’t have a progressive council and mayor, they’d just be a little burg out there.”