HJ/EDApril 17, 2006

Business boom, construction on the horizon for Montrose

By Liz Hellmann
Staff Writer

The sleepy little town on the western edge of the Twin Cities metro area – Montrose – is starting to wake up in a big way.

More than doubling its size in the last five years, Montrose is heading into an era of more homes and new business opportunities. Just ask Montrose native and longtime mayor, Charlie Nelson.

“We have been planning for the growth, and we hit the ground running,” Nelson said.

When Nelson took over as mayor in 1999, Montrose had fewer than 300 homes. Today, it has more than 1,500.

“We are, roughly, building 120 homes a year,” Nelson said. “And there is finally some business interest.”

Residents can expect to see fast food restaurants, a grocery store, hotel, and hardware store moving into town in the next couple years.

Although these businesses are not yet contracted with developers, what is certain is the serious interest they have in building in Montrose, according to Nelson.

Other additions to the community will include senior living, a new water tower, and a 20-acre park.

Meadowbrook Cottages assisted living will be constructed this year, offering seniors a comfortable place to live with some help available.

The old water tower in Lions Park will be coming down to make way for a new one to be built on the south side of town.

“It’s too bad, because I remember climbing that water tower when I was young, to cool off,” Nelson laughed.

But even though the landscape of Montrose is changing rapidly, the small-town friendliness remains intact.

“Whenever I go for a walk, there are people on the street. It’s a great way to meet people and say ‘hi,’” Nelson said.

One of the reason so many people are walking around in Montrose is its extensive trail system.

Paved paths and sidewalks connect almost every road in town, wind in and out of the new developments, and stretch a mile and a half north of town.

The trails will eventually connect all the way to Buffalo to the north, and Waverly to the west.

“We are very proud of our trail system,” Nelson said, who enjoys biking them himself.

Montrose offers another way to get out and enjoy nature, with its parks.

At least five parks are located in town and offer playgrounds, picnic areas, softball, baseball, soccer fields, tennis courts, and a skate park.

Another 20-acre park is in the works on Clementa Ave.

It will go along with yet another new development going up this year, White Tail Ridge.

To stay on top of all of this change, Nelson has learned to think ahead to the future.

“One of the first things that happened when I became mayor is we adopted a comprehensive plan for the city, a land use plan, subdivision plan, and a planning and zoning ordinance,” Nelson said.

Nelson likes to consider how the decisions the council makes will affect the town in 20 years.

Right now, the city is planning on updating the three main intersections on Highway 12 to prepare for increased traffic levels.

Improvements include adding turning lanes and widening roads by Clementa Ave., Zephyr Ave., and Wright County Road 25.

“It’s just a question of which one gets filled in first,” Nelson said.

When Nelson isn’t looking 20 years into the future, he likes to work with the Boy Scouts and is an active, life-long member of United Methodist Church in Montrose.

He also helped design the newly-completed addition for United Methodist.

Nelson decided to run for council when he officially retired in 1998, after being urged by friends.

It is not a job he takes lightly, nor is it an easy one.

“There are so many things going on,” Nelson said, who just welcomed two new grandchildren into the world.

“To be in any elected position, it’s not really part-time. You have to care about the people you represent, and if you don’t care, you shouldn’t run.”

Nelson also attributes much of the city’s success to the many volunteers who serve in organizations, as firefighters, and on committees.

“We are very proud of them,” Nelson said.

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