Conditional use changes needed for Family Pathways building

When Fairview Health Services moved from its former building off Oak Street, which was built in 1974, to its new location near the intersection of Highway 95 and Falcon Avenue in North Branch, the vacant building presented an opportunity for Family Pathways.

The building sat vacant for about a year before Family Pathways, a multi-service nonprofit organization serving communities in east central Minnesota and west central Wisconsin, decided to purchase it and use it as an office building.

When looking at the uses of the building after the purchase, the city found it was zoned incorrectly.

“It’s not clear from what we could find in the minutes why the clinic is there with the residential zoning and land use designations that are in place,” City Planner Ken Roberts said.

He explained that Family Pathways could keep operating out of the site, but if it wanted to do any construction there or sell the building as commercial at any point, changes would need to be made.

He presented the council with a number of options, one of which would be rezoning the area to allow light commercial use, but council members thought that could open up the primarily residential area to unintended uses, if Family Pathways sold the building.

“I can see some long-term potential issues with the integrity of the neighborhood,” Council Member Joyce Borchardt said.

Roberts said there are 25-30 different uses with the rezoning option staff presented, which could potentially lead to an unwanted business in the area at some point.

Rich Smith, the executive director of Family Pathways, said the organization has been around for 35 years, and it has never sold any of the buildings its owns and plans to stay in the North Branch area for a long time.

Instead of rezoning the land, the council decided to look at allowing the office as a conditional use, with some language changes in the code amendment to accommodate for that use.

The North Branch Planning Commission will be looking over that option during the coming weeks, and the council will likely vote on the conditional use permit in October.

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