Worthington council passes interim ordinance regarding non-profit land use

WORTHINGTON – The Worthington City Council this week took a second stab at enacting an interim ordinance geared toward temporarily prohibiting nonprofit land uses in commercial zoning districts. The new ordinance, which was approved on a 3-2 vote, supersedes the one that was approved by the same margin two weeks ago.

According to city officials, the action taken on September 28 was deemed insufficient based on the lack of an actual ordinance to vote on – something City Clerk Mindy Eggers pointed out to the council during that discussion. Monday’s motion and vote clarify the council’s intent, which was to temporarily stop ISD 518 from purchasing the old Shopko property for use as a community education facility and district offices.

The concern is that the commercial property would be taken off the tax rolls in a location that is considered prime retail space. The timing is especially bad after the re-instatement of the local option sales tax, which is being used to fund a multitude of amenity projects around the city.

As with the September motion, Councilors Alan Oberloh and Amy Ernst cast nay votes.

During Monday’s discussion, Assistant City Administrator/Director of Economic Development Jason Brisson, who was absent during the September meeting, told the council that it is time for further study of the city’s zoning ordinances. Non-profit conditional use permit requests over the years have been treated in an unequal fashion.

Brisson gave a rather stern lecture about whether the subject should be handled legislatively or administratively, also acknowledging that the school’s potential purchase of the Shopko property was a political issue.

“Conditional use permits really should be site specific,” Brisson said. “You need to responsibly zone them.”

As far as studying the economic impact of the closing of Shopko, Brisson said, “If someone were to tell you they know for a fact what the impact of the loss of Shopko would be on the local option sales tax, they would be lying.”

The ordinance that stops non-profits from moving into commercial zoning districts can be rescinded at any time, but is only good for a maximum of one year.

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