Despite the interest of many retailers, council members want the land zoned industrial, not commercial.
Burnsville City Council Member Dan Kealey recently enjoyed lunch on the outdoor patio of the newly opened Porter Creek Hardwood Grill along County Road 42 in Burnsville.
Kealey was so impressed with the restaurant's decor and landscaping that he took a picture on his cell phone and sent it to his fiancée.
For Kealey, Porter Creek also serves as a snapshot of the type of economic development the city could experience with a shift in its comprehensive plan.
Kealey was the driving force behind getting the council to take a look at the possibility of rezoning the area west of County Road 5 along County Road 42 in Burnsville from industrial to commercial. At a work session last week, the council elected not to pursue the change yet, with Kealey saying afterward that the council is failing to take advantage of a good opportunity.
"Retailers who show interest in Burnsville always say the same thing: They want to be on County Road 42," Kealey said. "There's simply not a lot of retail space left."
Mayor Elizabeth Kautz and council members Mary Sherry and Charlie Crichton based their opposition to the change on the belief that the industrial sector remains a vital element of the city's overall success. Among its roles is to provide head-of-household jobs to the community. Kautz pointed out that the city was able to diminish the effects of the economic downturn with a diversified work force.
"That land use has served us well," Kautz said.
Crichton reiterated his disappointment that the council already has allowed some retail to "creep" west of County Road 5.
"I don't think a longer strip of retail along 42 is healthy for the city," Crichton said. "We already have plenty."
Kealey pointed to the recent announcement that Costco is taking over the former Grossman Chevrolet site just north of 42 as an example of the retail business the strip can draw. The council altered its restrictions on the number of liquor stores that could locate in the area to accommodate Costco.
The warehouse store had limited its search for a site in Burnsville to along 42 between Interstate 35W and County Road 5.
"If we're going to continue to issue variances, we need to change the zoning," Kealey said. "It's easy to see where the trend is going."
Sherry said she didn't believe changing the zoning to retail would provide "the highest and best use of the land."
"We have other places we can look to for more retail if we have the need," Sherry said.
However, Jen Helm, senior associate for NorthMarq commercial real estate services, backed Kealey's assertion that most retailers searching for a location in Burnsville set their sights on County Road 42.
"It's difficult to find anything between County Road 5 and Interstate 35," Helm said. "If nothing is available, a lot of retailers are willing to wait until something does open up.
"There definitely is an interest among retailers to see the zoning extended to the Savage border."
Dean Spiros • 952-882-9203