Changes to New Ulm’s zoning ordinance considered

NEW ULM – The Zoning Map of New Ulm will soon be a lot more colorful.

The creation of several new zoning districts was discussed at an informational meeting of the Planning and Zoning Commission on Thursday.

Community Development Director David Schnobrich explained that New Ulm’s zoning ordinance needs an update. “The bulk of the language in this zoning ordinance dates from the late ’60 or ’70s,” he said. The changes would not simply involve an update in language, but a complete overhaul of the zoning ordinance.

Commission members reviewed proposed changes to the Base Zoning Districts. In New Ulm, currently nine Base Districts are recognized. They include four types of residential, three types of commercial, and two types of industrial. The proposed update would increase the number of base districts to 19.

The largest increase would be to residential districts, which would have eight types of districts. The change covers manufactured home parks, high density residence, and traditional neighborhoods.

Commercial districts would have four designations. The service business district would be eliminated. Community commercial districts and central business districts would be added. Downtown businesses would be reclassified as central business districts to differentiate from other businesses.

Industrial districts would be separated into three types – planned, light and general. The only real change to industrial would be the classification of general industrial district which would represent industrial zones in close proximity to residential areas.

In addition, four new districts (agricultural-open space, institutional, mixed use and commercial manufacturing) would be added under the classification special purpose districts.

Agricultural-open space districts would cover areas such as golf courses, the state park, airport and flood plain areas. The institutional district would be applied areas such as hospitals. Mixed use district would cover areas with a combination of land uses. The example of the middle school was used if a developer combined residential with office on that site.

The commercial manufacturing district was created to cover Schell’s Brewery. The brewery is currently zoned as residential, which is not considered an accurate description. Schnobrich explained the brewery has many unique land uses from retail, park, residence and industry. It was decided a special district was needed to cover everything on the brewery grounds.

In addition three overlay districts will be established, including heritage preservation, flood plain and bluff land protection. Overlay districts are special designations attached to based districts. Schnobrich explained a heritage preservation district could be applied to a residential district with historical significance.

Schnobrich made it clear these proposed changes were not set in stone and new districts may be added or changed. “It’s a work in progress,” he said.

The process of updating the zoning ordinances began four years ago following the completion of New Ulm’s Comprehensive Plan. Future informational meetings will be held before any official change is made to the ordinances, and no official finish date is set. The main goal of the proposed district changes is to better reflect the type of development taking place in New Ulm.

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