Dassel’s commercial zoning to be made more flexible

October 29, 2007

By Roz Kohls
Staff Writer

The Dassel Planning Commission is planning to make the city’s commercial zoning regulations more flexible in case Spectralytics chooses to expand at the intersection of Highways 12 and 15.

City Administrator Myles McGrath said Tuesday at the planning commission meeting there’s a possibility Spectralytics, a laser micro-welding, drilling and cutting company in Dassel, will expand on the area previously proposed for the Dassel Cokato Ice and Sports Center. The ice arena organizers changed their plans and deeded the property back to the city. The site northwest of Dassel now is available.

Gary Oberg, CEO of Spectralytics, said Jan. 16 the facility intends to expand into a 30,000-square-foot building. It is now in a 22,000-square-foot building at 145 S. Third St.

Dassel’s industrial zoning classification, I1, is relatively old-fashioned, McGrath said. It brings to mind factories with smokestacks and lots of noise. Light manufacturing facilities, such as Spectralytics, are not like that now, he said.

Modern manufacturing plants make “good neighbors,” McGrath added.

The 8.5 acres under consideration in the northwest corner of the intersection is zoned commercial highway frontage, C2. The zone is characteristic of gas stations, car dealerships, and motels.

Planning commission members directed McGrath to come up with a plan to amend C2. With a conditional use permit, light manufacturing facilities may locate there on a case-by-case basis.

“Make it flexible so we don’t have to rezone to accommodate a business,” said Planning Commission Chairman Jeff Loven.

There are other C2 zones in Dassel, so all will be affected by the change, McGrath said.

Both planning commissioners, Deb Suchy and Dennis Johnson emphasized they would like the east side of the property to be commercial, and the west side be used for light manufacturing, the same way Delano’s property next to Highway 12, near the Subway, is used.

Loven asked about the sharp 90-degree turns in the proposed street running east and west through the property. If the east side is used for manufacturing, 18-wheeler trucks will have difficulty maneuvering around the corner, Loven said.

A dip just north of the entryway will be cost-prohibitive to fill, so the proposed street was planned to go around it, Planning Commissioner Mike Scanlon said.

There is an even larger dip on the south, along Highway 12, so the entryway can’t be placed there, McGrath said. The property on the north is owned by Annabella Johnson, he added.

The entryway proposed for the property is the same as when a motel was located there years ago, McGrath said.

Most of the area is zoned JOBZ, so there will be tax incentives for businesses to build there. Also, McGrath said businesses interested in Dassel might be able to make use of a proposal from Gov. Tim Pawlenty, called SEED, which will start in the spring and help fund entrepreneurs.

Some residents have expressed concern about whether Spectralytics will be able to expand, because it has laid off some of its employees, Loven said.

However, McGrath said his wife is employed there, and she currently has overtime work.

What is SEED?

SEED is a Strategic Entrepreneurial Economic Development program proposed by Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty Sept. 25.

SEED is a combination of tax credits, loans, grants and other capital assistance to small business owners in rural Minnesota.

It will target 64 Minnesota counties that have experienced population decline or higher unemployment rates than the state average.

Pawlenty will ask the 2008 Legislature to approve and pay for the program with $20 million from the state’s general fund and another $50 million in borrowed money.