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R-2 zoning approved for potential townhome site

Submitted illustration A site plan by Little Falls-based Roach Development LLC shows a plan for a 28-unit townhome complex, possibly to be built on a 5-acre tract at the intersection of 11th Street Southwest and King Avenue in Wadena. The Wadena City Council approved R-2 zoning for the complex July 10. A public hearing for the next step, annexation to the city limits, will take place July 24.

The Wadena City Council approved zoning for a 5-acre parcel of land on 11th Street Southwest and King Avenue Tuesday. The decision is the first of several steps to potentially allow a townhome development in southwest Wadena.

The decision was approved unanimously by four members of the council, with Mayor Wayne Wolden abstaining because he is a property owner in the affected neighborhood.

The council also approved a traffic study to potentially make four-way stops in the neighborhood for heightened road safety issues from the proposed townhomes.

Neighborhood residents packed the seating area of the council, and some expressed concern with how the higher density zoning might impact traffic safety and the character of the neighborhood.

Representatives of Roach Development LLC of Little Falls, intending to build a townhome complex on the property, were also at the council meeting to answer questions by city officials and residents.

Wadena Planning and Zoning Director Dean Uselman said building permits have not yet been issued, and the parcel of land still needs to be annexed to the city.

Tuesday evening's action to zone the five-acre parcel of land, currently a rural lot in Compton Township owned by the Wadena Assemblies of God church, was the prerequisite for the council to later annex the property into the city limits.

Once the city annexes the property, the permitting process can begin.

The property was zoned R-2, as recommended by the city planning commission. R-2 is the standard zoning designation for medium density apartments, and is bordered by properties zoned R-1, the typical designation of single-family homes or apartments of up to four units per parcel.

Some area residents attended the council meeting and signed a petition to zone the parcel as R-1 instead of R-2.

Southwest Wadena property owner David Pierson handed the petition to the council, saying it had 40 to 50 signatures. He said he didn't want to put a stop to the project, but was concerned there would be less green space and more asphalt with the development.

Property owner Alicia Jones said she was concerned the increased population from an apartment would add a hazard to an already dangerous intersection.

Additionally, Wadena resident Jerry Maas asked if local workers would be hired for the development project.

Developer Matt Roach replied they have in-house employees, but they usually try to purchase supplies locally and contract with local plumbers and electricians.

The townhome development would include 14 two-bedroom units and 14 three-bedroom units.

Roach said there would also be plenty of parking space for tenants within the property. He added that his business would continue to own the property after it is built, and an on-site caretaker would be hired.

Roach also said rents would be between $750 and $950 per month, and their typical clientele tends to be incoming workers, as well as retirees looking to downsize.

The council set a public hearing for the next step of annexation for July 24 at 5:30 p.m. at the council chambers.