The Albertville Planning Commission Tuesday approved the rezoning of a commercial outlot in the community targeted for purchase by a local church, clearing the way for a possible re-zoning of the land and the first construction of a church on Albertville’s southern border in several years.
The purchase of the lot in Huering Meadows, which is near the northwest intersection of 53rd Street Northeast and Wright County 19 (LaBeaux Avenue Northeast), would fill a void along County 19 that has been empty for 14 years, advocates said Tuesday, and create a use that fit the neighborhood, considering 53rd Street is an entrance to the nearby housing development.
Westbridge Community Church Pastor Jeremiah Curran approached the Albertville City Council several weeks ago during the open forum portion of the meeting alerting members to a possible purchase of the property within Huering Meadows. With a purchase agreement in place, Curran brought the proposed plans to Planning Commission for the group’s first official meeting of 2015.
Though city staff, including City Planner Alan Brixius, told the commission the proposal was contrary to the city’s comprehensive plan (2030 plan) in terms of protecting commercial property within the city limits and aiming to increase the taxable valuation of property along Highway 19, staff also said the commission was within its right to change the zoning and amend the plan, in turn creating a need to re-visit some of the items in the 2030 Plan in lieu of that action.
The Planning Commission unanimously gave its approval to rezoning the property, clearing the way for the church.
In an interview with North Wright County Today, Curran said he would abide by the city’s wishes throughout the process, not looking to push any sort of legal precedent along the way. He said Westbridge has worked closely with both St. Michael and Albertville throughout its history here, as well as with the St. Michael-Albertville School District, as the church now meets in St. Michael-Albertville Middle School West.
“There’s no desire on our part to damage that. We’ve been so happy to be so welcomed here in the both communities. I think we’ve worked hard to build what we have, and we’ve grown to a point where this is the next logical step for us. This property just happened to be the one that we felt worked best for that,” he said.
Curran added that the project would be built with the future in mind. Since it’s a commercial area, the church would have more “commercial feel” to it. Indeed, proposed drawings show the church – which would have youth instructional space, gathering space and an auditorium that would seat about 600 people – looks like it meshes in with nearby buildings such as the Albertville-St. Michael Clinic.
Albertville resident Melissa Harrsion, who is not a church member but is selling a home nearby, said she supports the re-zoning of the property.
“They’re such a pillar in our community already,” she said. “It would be a great benefit to our community to provide them with this opportunity. And, I’d much rather have a church in my backyard than another empty commercial building.”
Albertville Council liaison Walter Hudson said he supports the rezoning as well, penning this column to the North Wright County Today site.
“While a church won’t provide the property tax revenue of a commercial development, it will add to the community of neighbors vested in Albertville,” Hudson writes. “In his remarks to the Planning Commission, Westbridge Pastor Jeremiah Curran noted that over 60 percent of the church’s 1,500+ church members travel from outside the St. Michael / Albertville area to attend services. These are folks who then shop at our businesses and eat at our restaurants, which contributes to the economic success of the whole community.”
The Westbridge project will come to the Albertville City Council for a vote – carrying the Albertville Planning Commission’s seal of approval – at the council’s first meeting in March, set for Monday, March 2. Meetings are at 7 p.m. at Albertville City Hall.